The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has criticised the foreign minister for providing false information while responding to questions put forward in the Majlis regarding the Maldives’ participation in China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative.
“The party severely condemns foreign minister Dunya Maumoon for intentionally providing false information about Maldives and its diplomatic relations with other countries,” read an MDP press statement released yesterday (November 8).
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jingping has called on the Maldives “to get actively involved” in the creation of a maritime trade route linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has today released a statement seeking to clarify any confusion caused by these remarks, saying that Dunya had “noted her concern if her choice of words had led to any confusion”.
When asked about the potential impact of the scheme on India-Maldives relations, Dunya told the parliament last week that India had also discussed participating during the recent state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng.
However, Indian Diplomats in Malé promptly refuted the claim, releasing a statement containing comments from the Indian External Affairs Ministry which denied such talks having taken place.
“[T]his matter was neither raised, nor discussed, nor is it reflected in any of the outcomes of the visit of President Xi Jinping to India,” the ministry official told Indian media on Thursday (November 6).
The Maldives foreign ministry today said that Dunya had mentioned various discussions having taken place between India and China “on a wide range of issues” as an example of the excellent relations between the two nations.
The MDP also noted that it was “shameful” that the Indian Government had to re-clarify the public after “lies” from the foreign minister, and warned the government that such actions will weaken Maldives’ relations with other countries.
Fears have been expressed by the opposition regarding the potential for the government’s willingness to participate in the scheme to damage relations with regional neighbours.
The party also called for the resignation of Dunya, stating that intentionally providing false information to the parliament was a crime under the Maldivian Constitution.
The Chinese president travelled to India after having visited the Maldives where numerous MoUs were signed between the two governments – most notably agreements promoting the Malé-Hulhulé bridge and the redevelopment of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
The new INIA agreement comes while previous developer, India’s GMR, waits to hear how much they are to receive in damages after a Singapore arbitration court ruled their prematurely terminated contract with the Government of Maldives to have been “valid and binding”.
Meanwhile, China’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that China is creating a “string of pearls” encircling India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
*This article was amended shortly after publication to include an additional statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs