Saudi Arabia is seeking to secure oil trade routes to east Asia through a multi-billion dollar investment in a Maldives atoll, foreign policy experts and the Maldives’ former president have told Climate Home.
The move could prefigure a Chinese military expansion into the heart of the Indian Ocean, one observer said.
The economic future of the Saudi petro-kingdom is bound to the sale of oil, gas and other goods to China. The supply lines for that trade run through the Indian Ocean, where terror is a growing concern and vessels are shadowed by piracy.
The ships also pass by the Maldives – an 820km-long chain of atolls southwest of the tip of India. In this small country, with its growing Wahhabist majority and autocratic government, the Saudis have found – or, according to the Maldivian opposition, created – a pliant ally where few questions are asked and fewer are allowed.
Last week, unconfirmed reports emerged that the Saudi government intended to buy one of the atolls, Faafu – a collection of 19 low-lying islands 120 kilometres south of the capital Malé and home to 4,000 people.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has denied the entire atoll will be sold to the Saudis, but said plans for a”mega project” worth US$10 billion – three times his country’s GDP – would be disclosed “once the negotiation process was completed”.
Former-president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed said the reported sale of Faafu, which has been subject to no public tender process, was “disturbing”.
Megan Darby’s travel to the Maldives and accommodation was paid for by the Maldives government
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