In a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed Washington’s commitment to strengthening cooperation with the Maldives for “a free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” This interaction coincided with President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s announcement of his first state visit to China, following an invitation from President Xi Jinping.

Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the US State Department acknowledged the timing of the call. Observers, however, have noted its critical timing as the Maldives’s role in Indo-Pacific security is deemed important for US foreign policy.

According to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry, Minister Zameer and Secretary Blinken “reflected on the renewed vigour of the bilateral relations between the Maldives and the United States, and discussed further strengthening the existing bilateral partnership.” The release highlighted discussions on a range of issues, including defence cooperation, economic development, climate change and adaptation, democratic governance, and the rule of law.

The discussion on democratic governance and rule of law is particularly significant given recent criticisms of the new government. These criticisms include the blocking of several anti-government websites, alleged infringement of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, and the Ministry of Homeland Security’s announcement regarding the enforcement of capital punishment.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, along with First Lady Sajidha Mohamed, is scheduled for a state visit to China from 7 to 12 January. This visit comes at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as announced by the President’s Office on Thursday.

This is the first state visit by President Muizzu, who previously visited Türkiye and UAE in an official capacity. Observations from critics suggest that President Muizzu is realigning the nation’s international relations, indicating a closer alignment with China. This shift, marked by the President’s upcoming state visit, deviates from the traditional first visit to India, signaling a nuanced but notable shift in the Maldives’ diplomatic strategy.