China’s Global Times, which has for months been goading India about regional dynamics, softened its stance Tuesday by saying the two powers could work together in the Maldives.
The Beijing-based tabloid, which has been said to reflect what party leaders think but cannot say, has criticised New Delhi for its zero-sum mentality, warned it against military intervention in the Maldives and told it to stop provoking the upmarket holiday destination.
President Abdulla Yameen lost last Sunday’s election by more than 38,000 votes. He was widely seen as being China’s preferred candidate for having courted loans and investment in excess of a billion dollars, with his closeness to China coinciding with worsening India ties.
The Global Times said Beijing had come up with a constructive “two-plus-one” mechanism – China and India plus another South Asian country – as a demonstration of sincerity.
“The mechanism can not only enhance mutual trust between China and India, but prevent other South Asian countries from being caught in between,” said an editorial under the name of Long Xingchun.
“This aims to harmonize relations between countries and serves the interest of all relevant parties, and is worth a careful consideration by New Delhi. Perhaps the two powers can have a try in the Maldives first.”
It is not clear what this mechanism is, if it exists or has been formalised in any way by China.
A foreign ministry spokesman said earlier this week that China respected the choice made by people in the Maldives, in response to a question about expectations for the future development of ties between the two countries.
The Global Times said Yameen’s defeat had little to do with China and everything to do with his trampling of human rights, a crackdown on the opposition and the undermining of democracy and rule of law.
“For instance, with opposition leaders and judges arrested by the Yameen government, the opposition party got united amid public concerns about damage to democracy and the rule of law. Foreign policy on China and India did not take center stage during the election. Neither did Solih and the opposition make any remarks hostile to China during the campaign.”
China had no intention and no need to shut out India from the Maldives, said the article.
“In the meantime, the Maldives may lend priority to India in its foreign relations, but won’t constrain itself to India. Their disagreement is a bilateral issue that has nothing to do with China.”