Male: Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday denied participating in the "China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation", held on November 21, 2022.

"The Ministry would like to clarify that the Government of Maldives did not participate in the Forum mentioned above, and communicated its decision not to participate to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China to the Maldives on November 15, 2022, read Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

Notably, a joint press statement was released by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) alleging the participation of the Maldives in the "China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation", held on 21 November 2022.

Furthermore, participation by individuals or groups of individuals from the Maldives does not constitute official representation by the Government of Maldives, read the statement.

In accordance with Article 115 (J) of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, only the serving President may determine, conduct and oversee the foreign policy of the country, and conduct political relations with foreign nations and international organizations.

Official accreditation to meetings, forums and conferences to represent the Maldives, as per international practice, will only take place through diplomatic channels. Therefore, the statement added that there was no official representation by the Government of Maldives for this specific meeting.

Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives are among the biggest debtors of China. Pakistan owes USD 77.3 billion of external debt to China, according to Forbes.

Maldives' debt to 31 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI). Maldives' total debt amounts to MVR 86 billion by the end of 2020, MVR 44 billion of which is external debt, reported The Island Online.

China is reaching most countries under the One Belt and Road scheme. The world's low-income countries owe 37 per cent of their debt to China in 2022, compared to just 24 per cent in bilateral debts to the rest of the world.

The Chinese global project to finance the construction of the port, rail and land infrastructure across the globe, had been a significant source of debt to China for participating countries, reported The Island Online.

Maldives newspaper reported that according to statistics released by the Finance Ministry, Maldives' debt rose to MVR 99 billion by the end of Q1 2022. It made up 113 per cent of the GDP.

China has faced criticism for its lending practices to poorer countries, accused of leaving them struggling to repay debts and therefore vulnerable to pressure from Beijing. China rejects this criticism and calls it a "propaganda/narrative of the vested interested countries" to tarnish its image.

Meanwhile, despite efforts to sabotage the India-Maldives bilateral ties by former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, the relationship between the two countries still thrives, the Maldives Voice has reported.

The bilateral relations between India and Maldives relations have improved since Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took over as the president of the island nation, the report added.

Recently, in August, the visiting Maldivian President signed a number of agreements to push the bilateral partnership, especially in the domains of infrastructure and connectivity, to the next level.

It was Solih's third visit since taking office.