Maldives gives airport contract to China during Xi's visit

Maldives gives airport contract to China during Xi's visit

China has clinched the multi- million dollar deal to upgrade Male's international airport for which the Maldives had earlier contracted Indian firm GMR but unilaterally terminated the agreement in 2012.

During President Xi Jinping's just-concluded visit to the Maldives, China bagged a number of infrastructure projects and also secured Male's support for a grand plan of 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which was expected to further Beijing's economic and strategic interests.

A housing and a road project involving China was unveiled yesterday which is part of a number of infrastructure projects that include building a landmark bridge and upgrading the main airport in the island country, official media here reported.

China will examine the viability of building a bridge linking the capital Male to the nearby island of Hulhule, where the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is located, Xi told his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Yameen.

A preliminary contract agreement expanding and upgrading the airport was also signed, state-run China Daily reported.

GMR was involved with the airport project but was asked to leave abruptly in 2012.

The over USD 500-million airport development project was unilaterally scrapped by the then Maldivian government headed by President Mohamed Waheed.

A legal tussle is on between the Maldivian government and GMR over termination of the contract. The two sides are currently in arbitration before the Singapore Court of Appeal.

Xi was in Male as part of a South Asia tour that will also take him to Sri Lanka and India where he will hold the first summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

China fully supports enterprises that will drive Maldives' economic development and key projects, Xi said on the first visit by a Chinese state leader to the Maldives.

Yameen said, "At such a crucial juncture of our development, it is indeed a source of major encouragement and inspiration that one of our most constructive economic partners is willing to support our national effort to transform our economy, bring capital, and promote trade and development."

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