Colombo/Male: In a clear hint that Maldives was getting close to China, Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed has said his country has more access to Chinese funds for developmental projects in his country.
He also noted that the bilateral ties with India have been strained due to the termination of the contract that was given to Indian infrastructure giant GMR for operating and developing the Male international airport.
"In terms of bilateral assistance, we have more access to Chinese financing now for development projects," the President who ended a two-day visit to Sri Lanka on Sunday told the Sunday Times.
He said while a Board of the airport company will decide if a partnership with a foreign investor is wanted, Maldives will retain the majority interest adding that the country is capable of borrowing and investing in the new project".
He said his country, like all countries, is also trying to establish strong trade and commerce ties with China.
"Chinese nationals now make up the biggest chunk of tourists to the Maldives. With Europe in recession there is a slight decline of European tourists but with the middle class in China growing, the Maldives has become a new destination for them," he said.
However, he also said relations between the Maldives and India, that were strained after the Maldives scrapped a over USD 500 million contract last December with GMR, are steadily improving "even though visa restrictions on patients and obtaining certain construction materials put in place by India continue".
In November, the Maldives government prematurely terminated the 25-year agreement with GMR to develop and operate the country`s only operational international airport citing that the agreement was invalid from the outset.