Diplomacy Politics

Maldives cannot ignore plan’s benefits

China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” is too worthwhile an idea for an election to derail. Maldives president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last month defeated overtly pro-Beijing Abdulla Yameen, raising hopes in New Delhi that India could regain lost favour with its north Indian Ocean neighbour. Given concerns in the nation about the scale of Chinese infrastructure projects and their financial cost, there is bound to be a review, just as after recent polls in Malaysia and Pakistan. But the benefits of Chinese investment are so great that there will be no ditching, only diplomatic rebalancing.

The Maldives is an important part of China’s ambitious infrastructure and trade project linking Asia with Africa and Europe. Strategically, the archipelago of islands is equally important for rivals China and India as they vie for regional influence. Yameen was quick to see potential China offered after winning the presidency in 2013 and along with Chinese tourists came hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for work including an airport extension and bridge and housing development. For critics of his hardline rule, he appeared to further mark his preference by jailing opposition politicians including former president Mohamed Nasheed, who had favoured India.

Nasheed, later freed, campaigned in support of Solih from exile in Sri Lanka with an anti-China message. He warned that the Maldives was in danger of falling into a debt trap and pointed to the experience of Sri Lanka, which had been unable to pay loans to Beijing over a port project and been forced into a 99-year lease. That was the same argument voiced by poll victors Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia and Pakistan’s Imran Khan. But their rhetoric has given way to pragmatism and that is bound to be the case with Solih; China and the opportunities it offers are too big to ignore.

The election result is not a setback for Beijing. Nations, especially smaller ones, have to play a balancing act with trade and investment, so as not to become too dependent on any one partner. Solih can put his country’s interests first through China and India being counterbalances.

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Source URL: Google News

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F. Sinibaldi
F. Sinibaldi

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Francesco Sinibaldi


Your article clearly puts it about benefits of staying independent. Now you have to ask yourself who is favoring a country!! Nasheed and MDP don’t want anything other than India. Yameen never said no to India. Ever EMR project cancellation was done by his predecessor Waheed. China also supports India to participate but India wants only itself to have any say on Maldivian foreign policy. India is doing the same to Bhutan. Bhutan cannot make agreement with other countries without Indian approval. The doklam episode supposed to be only between China and Bhutan. When Bhutan had no objection it was… Read more »