China opens embassy in Maldives ahead of summit

China opened a full diplomatic mission in the Maldives, two days ahead of a key South Asian summit in the Indian Ocean archipelago, an official said.

Last Updated: Nov 08, 2011, 21:51 PM IST

Gan (Maldives): China opened a full diplomatic
mission in the Maldives on Tuesday, two days ahead of a key South
Asian summit in the Indian Ocean archipelago, an official
said.

Beijing established the embassy in the capital Male as
seven South Asian leaders were due in the Maldives for their
17th summit in the southern city of Addu, a former secret base
of the British Royal Navy during World War II.
"They (the Chinese) wanted to open the embassy before the
summit," Maldivian Foreign Secretary Ahmed Naseer told agency.

Another official said the opening of the Chinese mission
was a reciprocal move after Male opened an embassy in Beijing
in 2007. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese
authorities in the Maldives.

India has a large mission in the Maldives and its South
Asian neighbours also maintain a presence in the country of
330,000 Sunni Muslims.

China`s embassy opening coincided with the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

Officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,
Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka began meeting in Gan
today to prepare for the two-day summit starting Thursday.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central
Asian Affairs Robert Blake also arrived in the Maldives today
to lead a delegation of observers to the summit, the US
embassy said.

It said Blake was due to hold a series of bilateral
meetings on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

The summit allowed the US to reaffirm its commitment to
engaging with South Asia "on our shared interests and
challenges, including regional economic cooperation and
integration along the New Silk Road," it said.

PTI