Diplomacy Politics

Maldives leader flags Chinese threat


New Delhi: Former Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Naseem on Monday called for New Delhi to take the lead in mounting a mix of “targeted sanctions” and “diplomatic isolation” on the Abdulla Yameen government to ensure free and fair presidential elections in the atoll nation.

Naseem, who is currently in India, said he had held discussions with people in the government on the situation in the Maldives but did not say who he has met.

“If President Abdulla Yameen gets another term, then the Chinese takeover of the Maldives will be complete,” Naseem told the media here in an interaction organised by the South Asian Women in the Media along with the Press Club of India.

The former minister said Yameen’s first term in office had given ample indication of what could be up next if he returned. That, he added, should concern India as the Maldives would then become a full colony of China and the People’s Liberation Army would have a military base in the Indian Ocean.

Naseem said that China – rather Chinese companies through which the establishment in Beijing operates – had control over 16 islands of the archipelago nation.

It was because of China’s support, he added, that Yameen has been able to subvert democracy by ignoring Supreme Court orders and imprisoning Opposition leaders and even non-pliable judges.

Naseem argued that China operated by undermining democracies, pointing out that dictators were more easily “seduced into a debt trap”.

He voiced the fear that the Maldives was well on its way into a debt trap through overpriced Chinese infrastructure projects. “There is an estimate that by 2020, 30-50 per cent of Maldives’ budget will be used for debt repayment to China,” he said.

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