Nasheed: India first, won’t allow for China to ‘grab’ land

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed. (Photo/President's Office)

Parliament Speaker, former president Mohamed Nasheed states Maldives will continue to uphold its ‘India First’ policy, will not allow China to ‘land grab and debt trap’.

Nasheed, who is in Delhi to attend the 7th Raisina Dialogue, made the comment at a lecture moderated by former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Tuesday evening.

“Maldives wants a closer relationship with India. I am very certain of that. I wouldn’t say this because I am a politician, I wouldn’t say anything that would not give me more votes. I am so convinced that we can find an ever closer relationship that is beneficial for both countries,” he said.

Nasheed alleged that the previous Maldivian government, led by former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, put unprecedented powers in the hands of Chinese government-owned enterprises by way of infrastructure projects that had put the island country under a massive debt burden.

Nasheed said that the current Maldivian government had repealed the laws designed to facilitate land grab.

“But the reality remains unchanged. Chinese government-owned enterprises have been awarded huge infrastructure projects,” he said.

Nasheed said the value of the projects were unusually high, and alleged it was a deliberate attempt to rack up debt.

He claimed China wanted to remove democracy from Maldives.

“China wanted to create autocracy and remove democracy from Maldives, set up a dictatorship and then do whatever they wanted to…More than 70 percent of the Maldives’ current debt is owned by China…This will give China unprecedented economic and political power over the Maldives,” he said.

Nasheed’s remarks comes as the ‘India Out’ movement, a campaign led by Yameen to protest against Indian military presence in Maldives, gathers in strength.

Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih issued a decree to ban the campaign last week, declaring it a threat to national security.

Nasheed has repeatedly accused China of setting debt traps, allegations the Chinese government denies.