Defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel has been summoned to parliament to answer whether a Chinese Yuan class 335 submarine entered Maldivian territorial waters between March 31 and May 22.
Eva Abdulla, an MP with the main opposition Maldivan Democratic Party (MDP), submitted the questions to parliament yesterday. Under parliamentary rules, a 14-day notice must be given for minister’s to appear for questioning.
— Eva Abdulla (@evattey) July 7, 2015
An Indian newspaper India Today reported on June 27 that “China’s deadliest attack submarine” crossed the Arabian Sea and entered Karachi port on May 22.
The submarine is reportedly equipped with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and air-independent propulsion.
“Beijing’s first-ever deployment of a submarine to Pakistan signals a new cat-and-mouse game in the region,” India Today observed.
According to the magazine, Indian navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan told reporters in New Delhi on May 28 that India was “minutely” monitoring Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean and “signalled the start of a new great game over the world’s most important water body.”
China’s rising presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that the rival Asian power is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The questions submitted by Eva ask the minister if the Chinese submarine was granted leave to enter Maldives’ territorial waters and if the security forces are aware if the submarine had entered the Maldives’ territorial waters without prior permission.
The docking of two Chinese submarines in a Sri Lankan port in November last year sparked concerns in New Delhi. The new Sri Lankan government in February pledged to ensure such incidents will not be repeated.
During an official visit to China last month – his second since assuming office in November 2013 – President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.
President Xi Jinping in his historic state visit in September invited the Maldives to “journey with China on the high-speed bullet train to progress and prosperity,” President Yameen said in a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12.
The Maldives has also become one of the first partners in the Chinese ‘Maritime Silk Route’ initiative and a founding member of the Chinese-led new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
In September last year, former President Mohamed Nasheed criticised the decision to join the Silk Route initiative, contending that it would threaten Indian Ocean security.
In January, the Chinese embassy in the Maldives denied Nasheed’s suggestions that the Maldivian government is planning to hand over large parts of Laamu Atoll to China for a military base.
“It is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” the Chinese embassy said.
“China does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.
The opposition leader had alleged that the Maldives was to hand over large parts of the southern atoll to China for a military base on a 99-year lease, in exchange for US$2 billion.
India Today meanwhile noted that China is planning to sell eight Yuan class submarines to Pakistan within the next few years.
“According to a New York-based Council on Foreign Relations report, Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear programme in the world. Its arsenal, built with the help of Chinese technology, stands at between 100 and 120 warheads, compared with China’s 250 and India with between 90 and 100,” the magazine reported.