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China is willing to help Maldives in training its naval personnel and strengthen cooperation in maritime affairs, Beijing's envoy to the country, Wang Fukang, has said.
Maldives, a cluster of hundreds of habited and inhabited island close to India's southern coast, lies in a strategic part of the ocean through which hundreds of cargo ships from the east and west pass through every year. President Xi Jinping last year mooted the idea of the maritime silk route to which passes through the region to expand east-west trade.
Wang told the official news agency Xinhua that the current Maldivian government – under President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, was trying to diversify its single economic structure and is committed to attract more foreign investments, including those coming from China.
Maritime cooperation with Maldives is one area that Beijing is looking at other than cooperating in tourism and developing infrastructure.
"The third area is maritime cooperation. Wang said that China is willing to train maritime personnel, discuss and sign memorandums of understanding in the area of maritime cooperation, strengthening cooperation in fisheries, marine research, protection of ecology and environment as well as climate change," the Xinhua report quoted Wang as saying.
The Indian government has traditionally been close to Male's various governments and has had commercial and military ties. China is seen to be increasingly involved with countries in the region including Sri Lanka where it has invested in massive projects including ports and airports.
According to the report, then Maldivian government organised the first "Maldives Investment Forum" in Singapore in April, promoting five mega- projects, including the special economic zones, expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Hulhumale' Phase II development, expansion of Male Harbor and oil exploration.
Currently, the Maldivian government is formulating a Special Economic Zone Bill which aims to provide more incentives to foreign investors in terms of tax breaks, relaxed financial requirements and preferential land use.
China clearly seeks to enter into the sectors.
"Since 2010, China has remained the largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives. In 2013 alone, more than 330,000 Chinese tourists visited Maldives. In the future, both sides could encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Maldives. Maldives could attract potential Chinese companies to invest in the tourism sector of the country," Wang said.