Author Topic: The Maldives Crisis and the China-India Chess Match  (Read 486 times)

adroth

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The Maldives Crisis and the China-India Chess Match
« on: July 13, 2018, 11:56:19 AM »
The Maldives Crisis and the China-India Chess Match

The state of emergency comes amid a high stakes game of regional rivalry.
By Sunaina Kumar and Angela Stanzel
March 15, 2018
 
https://thediplomat.com/2018/03/the-maldives-crisis-and-the-china-india-chess-match/

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The inception of the crisis goes back to 2013, when Yameen staged a coup and wrested power from the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammad Nasheed, who has since been living in exile in Sri Lanka. Soon after Yameen declared the emergency last month, Nasheed reached out to India and requested a military intervention to resolve the crisis.

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India’s status as peacekeeper of the region and primary regional partner of the Maldives has been challenged in recent years, as Yameen, who is perceived as “pro-China” in India, decided to use the Maldives’ strategic location on the Indian Ocean to play one power against the other.

China is invested in the Maldives in particular through economic means, under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2014, China began to develop major infrastructure projects in the island nation, carried out by Chinese state-owned companies, which so far have focused on two flagship projects. One is a bridge, now under construction, linking the capital Male to a nearby island. The other is an expansion of the capital’s airport, a project awarded to a Chinese company in 2014. The Maldives has also leased an uninhabited island (Feydhoo Finolhu) to a Chinese enterprise for 50 years at a price of around $4 million, with plans to develop infrastructure for tourism. On December 7, 2017, China and the Maldives signed a free trade agreement.

Yameen, during his first official visit abroad to India in 2014, said that while the Maldives has “close ties” with China, “nothing will precede ties with India, which are far more precious.” However, his actions have not matched those words. Today, Chinese loans for projects already account for around 70 percent of the Maldives’ national debt. From his exile, Nasheed has accused the Yameen government of allowing a Chinese “‘land grab’ of Maldivian islands, key infrastructure, and even essential utilities,” which in his view “not only undermines the independence of the Maldives, but the security of the entire Indian Ocean region.” China has dismissed accusations from the former leader Nasheed as “absolute nonsense.”

Nevertheless, China’s massive lending to the Maldives puts into question the island state’s ability to repay its debts, with speculation that this translates into increasing political leverage for China. In addition, it appears that the BRI is not only about increasing economic ties but also about expanding China’s geostrategic ventures in the maritime realm. In August 2017, three Chinese warships docked in the Maldives for joint training sessions. More recently, amid the state of emergency in the Maldives, 11 Chinese warships reportedly sailed into the eastern Indian Ocean in February. Some assume this “may have helped deter an Indian intervention in the Maldives.”

“China has been eroding India’s influence in the Maldives, as part of its effort to built its ‘string of pearls’: a chain of military installations and economic projects aimed at projecting Chinese power in the Indian Ocean”, wrote Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, in a recent editorial. But India, he stated, has a lot to lose, “if it aggravates an already volatile political situation in its maritime backyard by intervening militarily.”

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adroth

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Re: The Maldives Crisis and the China-India Chess Match
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2018, 12:07:07 PM »
Exiled Maldives leader says Chinese deals on islands are ‘land grabs’

Ex-president Mohamed Nasheed said Chinese interests had leased at least 16 islets among the 1,192 scattered coral islands and were building ports and other infrastructure there

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/south-asia/article/2130055/exiled-maldives-leader-says-chinese-deals-islands-are-land

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The 50-year-old former president said the increased Chinese presence could threaten the Muslim-majority nation of 340,000 and the wider Indian Ocean region.

During a visit to Colombo, where his Maldivian Democratic Party activists are based, Nasheed called the Chinese action a “land grab”.

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Nasheed said 80 per cent of the Maldives’ foreign debt was owed to China and the nation could end up handing over more land and infrastructure as it may not be able to repay the loans.

He was referring to Sri Lanka’s experience under former president Mahinda Rajapakse who borrowed heavily from China. The new government had to sell projects to repay debts.

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