Former Foreign Minister of Maldives Ahmed Naseem has alleged that China is grabbing land in the Maldives that can be turned into military bases and this will destabilise the Indian Ocean region and be detrimental to Indian security. He criticised President Abdulla Yameen’s decision to return the two advanced light helicopters (ALHs) gifted by India and deny work permits to hundreds of Indians employed in the island nation. Speaking to Smita Sharma in New Delhi, he urged India to help restore democracy in the Maldives. Excerpts from the interview.
Maldives wants India to take back the two gifted ALHs. What’s your reaction?
China wants India out of Maldives and that is exactly what is happening. Chinese people are present at the atoll where the helicopters are based and they want the Indian government to remove the helicopters. We feel that India should not remove the helicopters at all. It is something that has served the Maldivian people, evacuating sick people from different islands.
Maldives has denied work permits to nearly 2,000 Indians. How do you see it?
President Yameen has never liked India. He feels that there are too many Indians working already in Maldives, though there are more Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans working in Maldives. Indians occupy a position in expatriate work force where their managerial skills are beneficial to the country. The denial of work permits is wrong and an insult to India.
How large is the shadow of China on India-Maldives relations today?
We have an agreement to not do anything that compromises national security of one another. Without any consultations, Maldives is giving land to China which could be converted into military bases. China is grabbing land everywhere and has 16 islands in Maldives today. If one country is able to dominate through predatory territorial policies, it is detrimental to free trade and security of the entire Indian Ocean.
It will be detrimental to Indian security. India needs to put its foot down and say this is not acceptable to us… India has a major role to play in restoration of democracy in Maldives.
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