January 15, 2022 10:20 am STI

beijing [China], Jan 15 (ANI): Amid continued rise in COVID-19 cases driven by Omicron variant across the world, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Maldives and Sri Lanka but no failed to make progress as Sri Lankan and Maldivian nationalists believe their sovereignty is being steadily eroded by China through the coercive use of debt trap diplomacy, a Europe-based think tank says .
Sri Lankans in particular seemed concerned that the country’s dire economic situation could present vulnerabilities for China to exploit, just as it did earlier with the port of Hambantota, the European Foundation for Southern Studies said. -Asians (EFSAS).
“However, it was not just the different set of pandemic rules for the minister and his inner circle that raised eyebrows, it was also the deeper concern that Sri Lankan and Maldivian nationalists had for their sovereignty. , which they felt was being gradually eroded by China through the coercive use of debt trap diplomacy,” the think tank said.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih has tried to limit Chinese influence and debt trapping by interacting more closely with India and other major players.
Despite the warm welcome to the Maldives and the cordial tone of the visit, Wang Yi didn’t seem to be making much progress there.

Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih, who replaced pro-China leader Abdulla Yameen in 2018 and has since dutifully returned to the island nation’s traditionally close symbiotic ties with India, played his cards right. Solih has tried to limit Chinese influence and debt trapping by interacting more closely with India and other major players, the think tank said.
The Maldives, like Sri Lanka, is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which the United States (US) has called a “debt trap” for small countries. The Solih-led regime has therefore also sought to balance the equation with China by showing more interest in broader Indo-Pacific developments this year. It has even engaged with the United States in its first annual security and defense dialogue, and is expected to soon host the first US diplomatic mission in the country, EFSAS reported.
Meanwhile, after concluding his visit to Male, Wang flew to a Sri Lanka embroiled in a deep economic crisis with foreign exchange reserves falling to around $1.6 billion in November 2021, enough to support around a months of imports.
In addition, rising debt, a currency crisis and high inflation had raised concerns about a possible sovereign default. Therefore, a host of issues including tourism promotion, investment and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed during Wang’s visit.
According to the think tank, a new proposal to further expand Chinese influence in the region was made by Wang Yi during his talks with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris. Wang proposed the creation of a forum for the development of island nations in the Indian Ocean.
According to the Center for Global Development, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are vulnerable to over-indebtedness under China’s BRI. The Maldives is considered “highly vulnerable” while Sri Lanka is considered “significantly vulnerable”, EFSAS reported.
According to the think tank, the Chinese dignitary and his delegation nevertheless opted to leave the African leg of their South Asia jaunts even as the Chinese government dealt harshly with the very few positive cases that had found a way to escape. China. strict zero-tolerance policy and seeping into Chinese cities. Entire cities of millions of people were completely shut down even when the total number of detected cases was less than a handful. (ANI)