Male: Maldives Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Mohamed Nazim has left for China on an official five-day visit to enhance bilateral "defence and military ties" and to secure Chinese assistance for developing the Maldivian military.
Nazim, is due to hold official talks with the Chinese Minister of National Defence General Liang Guanglie and meet members of the Chinese Central Military Commission, media reports here said.
The Defence Minister`s official visit to China follows last week`s termination by the government of a 25-year concession agreement with Indian infrastructure major GMR to modernise and manage the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
Nazim, who left yesterday, was at the forefront of talks with GMR for the smooth taking over of the airport by Maldives government after it "unilaterally" terminated the USD 511 million contract, signed by the previous regime of Mohamed Nasheed, on November 27.
Media reports had then said that China could be the force behind the move against GMR.
"Looking at the political situation and political framework in Maldives, I can`t rule out anything," GMR Airports chief financial officer (CFO) Sidharth Kapur had told journalists last week in a press conference in New Delhi when asked about China angle.
In November 2011, China became the first non-SAARC nation to open an embassy in the Maldives.
"Minister`s trip to China will further strengthen the defence and military relations between the two nations and that it will enhance Chinese assistance in various areas," the Haveeru daily quoted a statement released by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela has meanwhile separately appealed to China for financial and technical support, telling journalists from the Chinese government`s authorised web portal China.Org.Cn that the Maldives "needs funds for infrastructure building", the Minivan News reported.
"We are obviously in need of funds and technical assistance as we do not have the financial means, the technical know-how or the capacity to address these huge climate change issues," said Dr Shakeela, in an appeal for assistance with climate adaptation.
"Minivan News has learnt that senior Chinese military officials landed at the airport in the tense week leading up to the handover," the report said.