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COLOMBO: China on Saturday pledged $63 million in grants to Maldives for infrastructure projects, in a bid to deepen cooperation between the two countries.

The grant is among several agreements signed by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during his two-day trip to the island nation and Sri Lanka.

Wang met Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his counterpart Abdulla Shahid. The two sides also signed an agreement on visa exemptions that will allow Maldivians to travel to China on a 30-day visa-free basis once borders reopen.

Wang’s visit is part of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Maldives.

Maldives and Sri Lanka are both part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a long-term plan to fund and build infrastructure linking China to the rest of the world, but which others including the United States have labelled a “debt trap” for smaller nations. The current government of Maldives has one of the highest debts to China of any country relative to the size of its economy.

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