MDP welcomes China’s denial of military plans for Laamu Atoll

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has welcomed the statement by the Embassy of China in Maldives refuting claims by former President Mohamed Nasheed that a military facility was being planned in Laamu Atoll.

Denying suggestions that the Maldivian government planned to hand over large parts of the atoll under the Special Economic Zones Act, the embassy stated yesterday (25 January) that China “pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature” and that it “does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.

In a statement released yesterday evening, the MDP noted that China had a record of protecting its interest in primary markets with military facilities.

The statement went on to offer the example of the Chinese defence ministry announcing in December 2011 that its naval fleet “may seek supplies or recuperate” in harbours of the Seychelles during escort missions.

International reports at the time stated that the potential cooperation with the island nation, off the east coast of Africa, had come after a request made by the Seychelles government, with some Chinese media outlets reporting that a military base had been offered.

While speaking to the press after returning from a trip to Abu Dhabi last week (January 22), Nasheed 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.

Yesterday, the MDP party president described China’s as having “reconsidering their strategic plans in the Indian Ocean”.

China yesterday assured that it will uphold the principles of peaceful coexistence while aiding Maldives in maintaining and promoting peace and development, upon which it said the Maldives-China relationship is based.

Development projects

China and the Maldives signed a military aid agreement under the government of Dr Mohamed Waheed in December 2012, to develop military ties and provide free Chinese aid to the Maldives National Defence Force.

The country’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that it is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Suggestions by foreign minister Dunya Maumoon last November that China had officially discussed its Maritime Silk Route with India were quickly rebutted by Indian officials.

After the MDP condemned Dunya for “intentionally” providing false information about the Chinese project, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives suggested that the opposition party was attempting to provoke tension with international allies.

Last month, the Maldives officially agreed to participate in the Silk Road trade route, becoming the third country to do so, while also revealing that the two countries have agreed to engage upon free trade in the future.

Chinese state media has connected the Maritime Silk Road Project, which which will link China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean, to the proposed ‘iHavan’ transshipment port – one of five mega-projects designed to take advantage of the US$18 trillion worth of goods transported across the seven degree channel annually.

President Yameen has made clear his intention to further pursue already rapidly expanding ties with China, announcing a policy shift to the east while criticising the interference of western powers.

China also accounts for one third of all tourists visiting the Maldives.

(PHOTO: By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti; US Marines training with MNDF, Laamu Kadhoo, 2007)

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Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for Maldives involvement in 21st century maritime silk road

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Defence Minister signs military aid agreement with China


Participation in Silk Road initiative would threaten Indian Ocean security, contends Nasheed

The Maldives’ participation in the Chinese ’21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ initiative would threaten regional security in the Indian Ocean, contends former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Speaking at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally last night, the opposition leader said President Abdulla Yameen was heading towards disrupting regional security with his willingness to participate in the silk route initiative, which passes through the Maldives.

“There’s no need for a route of a particular people here. This country belongs to Maldivians,” he said, noting that traders from many countries have visited the Maldives for thousands of years.

The Maldives throughout its long history has served the Indian Ocean and people from various countries, including China, Nasheed continued, who were welcome to visit and dock their vessels in the country.

The Maldives should not participate in an initiative to facilitate trade and growth of a specific nation, he said.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, the Maritime Silk Road – linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean – and a separate overland Silk Road will bring “new opportunities and a new future to China and every country along the road that is seeking to develop.”

The Maldives welcomes and supports the proposal put forward by China to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation,” read a joint communique issued during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent state visit.

President Yameen also told the press that the Maldives was “honoured to now feature among China’s partners in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – a unique vision of President Xi, which will bring Asian neighbours closer together.”

China’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that China is creating a “string of pearls” that surrounds India and threatens its security, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, President Yameen told reporters upon returning from a visit to China in August that Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.

Nasheed went on to say that the Maldives should ensure its independence as well as the regional security of the Indian Ocean, which was a longstanding duty of Maldivian leaders.

“For hundreds of years, leader after leader has upheld the interest of the Maldives along with the security of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

President Yameen’s willingness to participate in the initiative would mark a shift in non-aligned foreign policy, he added, calling on the president to reconsider the decision.

A “responsible Maldivian leader” would not jeopardise the country’s security by risking being caught in the middle of war or disputes between great powers, Nasheed said.

Maldivian foreign policy should not seek to benefit from strife and discord, he added.

“In my view, we should not under any circumstances base our foreign policy on playing or turning one nation against another,” he said.