China refutes Maldives ex-President’s allegations

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) Amid the raging political crisis in the Maldives, China on Monday refuted allegations made by former Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed that Beijing is engaging in grabbing land in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

“Recently, former Maldivian President Nasheed made a lot of false remarks in the Indian media.

“He pointed fingers at the practical cooperation between China and Maldives and alleged that China engaged in so-called ‘land grabbing’ of Maldivian islands, which undermines the security of the Indian Ocean region,” Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy here, said in a statement.

“These allegations are apparently groundless with no regard to facts.”

In an interview to an Indian newspaper, Nasheed sought India’s help saying that the Maldives is currently faced with two problems: radical Islam and China’s attempts at land grabbing.

He said that China now has 17 islands in that country and talking about investing $40 million but the purpose for this was not known.

He said that this problem was a not a bilateral one but multilateral and sought India’s intervention.

Nasheed’s comments come amid the current political crisis and after Maldives President Abdulla Yameen rushed through Parliament a free trade agreement with China last year, which raised eyebrows in New Delhi as it went against Male’s “India First” policy.

India has traditionally held influence in the Indian Ocean atoll nation where China has been trying to make inroads because of the country’s strategic location.

Experts say the Maldivian crisis could well become a new power struggle between India and China.

Ji, in his statement, said that in recent years, “on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, China and the Maldives have been cooperating on infrastructure and livelihood projects, which has played a positive role in transforming and upgrading the latter’s economy and improving its people’s livelihood” and these measures have been “widely welcomed” by the Maldivian people”.

“As a matter of fact, when Nasheed was the President, China and Maldives have already launched relevant cooperation projects. The ‘land grabbing’ allegation by Nasheed is apparently meant to serve certain political purposes of him.”

The Maldives has plunged into a crisis with President Yameen declaring a state of emergency and arresting the Chief Justice and a former head of state, after the Supreme Court termed as unjust the imprisonment of nine MPs and Nasheed who is in exile.

Yameen sent special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia even as New Delhi politely declined to host the Maldivian Foreign Minister.

Ji also reiterated China’s stand that the current situation in Maldives is its “internal affair” and “should be properly resolved through dialogue and negotiation by various parties in the country” as the Maldivian government and people have the “wisdom and ability to properly handle the problems they face and restore order”.

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