India Thursday gave a guarded response to the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and the Maldives, saying it had yet to see the full document and could not comment on its contents.
The Maldives first FTA was rushed through parliament last month, but the government says it will open up the world’s largest consumer market for tariff-free fish exports. The Maldives also committed to waive import duties for Chinese goods.
It was one of 12 agreements signed during President Abdulla Yameen’s first state visit to China. Reports suggested New Delhi had been caught off guard by the FTA.
India’s External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar told the media in a weekly briefing that the development of bilateral relations between China and the Maldives was welcomed as long as it contributed to the peace and stability in the region.
“As you are aware India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Maldives. We are also committed to support democracy, development and stability in Maldives.
“It is our expectation that as a close and friendly neighbor Maldives will be sensitive to our concerns in keeping with its India First policy.”
China has used articles in state media to take swipes at India, first saying it would “do nothing but upset itself” if it tried to prevent closer trade ties between the two nations and then accusing India of having an “outdated strategic mentality”.
Kumar did not refer to the Chinese articles.