MALÉ: China on Saturday offered the Maldives infrastructure maintenance, medical aid and visa concessions as Beijing moved to strengthen its connections with the strategically placed Indian Ocean archipelago, reports AFP.
The Maldivian foreign ministry said a mutual visa exemption agreement was signed during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the capital Male.
It gave no details of the agreements, but said one of them was for the maintenance of the $200-million China-Maldives Friendship Bridge linking Male with the airport island of Hulhule, which was commissioned in 2018.
China will also give an unspecified amount of medical aid to the Maldives, the ministry said.
Regional superpower India offered $500 million in 2020 to build bridges and causeways in the Maldives, an archipelago of 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered across the equator.
The country is also strategically located, straddling key east-west international shipping routes.
After talks with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the Chinese minister was to fly to neighbouring Sri Lanka on the final leg of his first foreign tour of 2022, which has taken him to Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros.
Maldivians will be able to travel to China visa free and stay for 30 days after the virus restrictions are relaxed, the foreign ministry said.