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China wants India out of Maldives, island-nation’s ex-foreign minister says in interview

By Shubham

Former foreign minister of Maldives Ahmed Naseem has alleged that China was busy grabbing lands in the island-nation in the Indian Ocean to turn it into a military base and destabilise the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and pose threat to India's national security.

Former foreign minister of Maldives Ahmed Naseem

Naseem made the remark in an exclusive interview with The Tribune newspaper in New Delhi on Sunday, June 24.

Naseem had said the same during his visit to the US in March when he briefed the Donald Trump administration about the situation in the Maldives and China's alleged meddling in its internal affairs. He said on that occasion that the Maldives has now slided into a "full blown dictatorship" and accused China of corrupting the country's ruling elite and encouraging an authoritarian president to suppress his opposition.

Naseem's target was President Abdulla Yameen who has not only dealt his opposition and the judiciary with an iron fist but also imposed an emergency. His government has also denied work permits to several Indians employed in the Maldives and also return two helicopters that India had gifted it.

Urging India to restore democracy in the Maldives, Naseem said in the interview that China was eyeing India's ouster from the region and strongly felt that India should not remove the helicopters for they catered to the needs of the people of the island-nation.

On the Yameen government's decision to deny work permits to Indians, Naseem said the current president has a disliking for India for he felt too many Indians were already employed in his country. He said Indians' skills are a benefit for the Maldives and opined that such a move by the Maldives government was "wrong and an insult" to New Delhi.

In early 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cancelled his visit to the Maldives reportedly as a response to the arrest of former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed under charges of terrorism. The relation between the two old friends of South Asia has taken a nosedive since then and the shadow of China has made the gap widen further.

Naseem also blasted the Maldivian government for giving land to China without any consultations and said its dominance through "predatory territorial policies" would be a grave threat to free trade and security in the IOR.

He said it is high time for India to show its stern position on the issue and play a major role in restoring democracy in the island nation.

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