Maldives seeking 'better prospects', pres defends foreign policy

Maldives' incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Friday defended his government's foreign policy insisting that it was just seeking "better prospects" for the Maldivian people.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom since taking office in 2013 has looked to China to realize his ambitious infrastructure development plans. Beijing has provided loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.

Concerns that Maldives would fall into a debt trap like Sri Lanka were further fueled after the island nation signed its first bilateral free trade agreement with China late last year.

The contentious agreement was signed after the official talks between president Yameen and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the former's first state visit to the global super power in December last year.

The ever increasing China influence in the Maldives has sparked major concerns in neighbouring India.

In his message to the people on the occasion of Maldives' 53rd Independence Day, president Yameen however, insisted that his government's newly established ties on commerce and trade are not designed to replace existing ones but to seek better prospects for Maldivians.

"President Yameen noted that we will now be taking the initiative to seek out better prospects for our own people, on our own volition in our foray into the wider international and globalized realm," the president's office said in a statement.

"The President further clarified that the newly established ties on commerce and trade, are neither designed to replace existing ones, nor are they intended to change the basic premise of our foreign and domestic policies; instead these new relationships have been established to seek better prospects for Maldivians."

He also urged the nation "to be aware of the different ideologies, creeds and political beliefs Maldivians come across, and called on them to take into account the wider interests of the Maldivian people when considering decisions and pronouncements on the Maldives taken by other countries."