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Maldives president calls India ‘our closest friend’

December 17, 2018

NEW DELHI (AP) — The new president of the Maldives has called India the island nation’s closest friend, welcome words for New Delhi after years of Beijing’s growing economic influence.

The Press Trust of India news agency reports that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, speaking Sunday in New Delhi, said India “is not only our closest friend, it is also our largest trading partner.”

Solih defeated strongman Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who had forged increasingly closer to ties to China, in a September election.

India has long seen the Indian Ocean nation as part of its sphere of influence. China, though, sees the Maldives as part of its “Belt and Road” infrastructure programs, which follow ancient trade routes through the Indian Ocean and Central Asia. Beijing has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Maldives.

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