Reports that Maldives President elect-Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, better know as Ibu, is considering putting several Chinese-funded projects on hold, while reviewing others, have raised flags in Beijing.
On Friday, a newspaper quoted sources saying Ibu was “exploring options” to put several projects, part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Maldives, on hold.A journalist in Beijing, when contacted, said he was unaware of the report, but that “It would not be so easy to cancel such massive infrastructure projects, because there might be huge penalties or debts involved.” According to reports, Maldives faces liabilities of $1.4 billion, about a third of the country’s GDP, mostly for BRI projects.
The journalist however, conceded that “we have noted with concern President-elect Solih’s remarks against Chinese projects during the election campaign, as well as those by former President Mohamed Nasheed (2008-2012), and can only say they have been totally misinformed and misguided about Chinese intentions.”
He also said “India should seriously consider China’s 2+1 suggestion, where we work together in the Maldives like we are now doing in Afghanistan.”On Thursday, quizzed on reports that outgoing Maldives president, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, had filed a petition challenging the September 23 election verdict, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar reiterated that “India welcomes the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives… In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership.”
On October 14, an editorial in China’s state-run Global Times warned India against turning “south Asian countries into a geopolitical tool.”Former President Yameen had willingly welcomed China’s Belt and Road Initiative-related investments, and “when the opposition leader who vowed to review Chinese projects won the election in late September, China also expressed a willingness to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with the country and cement their long-standing friendship,”
According to the article, “Many observers view elections in south Asian nations as a battle for influence between China and India.”
South Asian stir China has been looking to extert its dominance over the southeast Asian region with its Belt and Road Initiative which opens trade routes across countries.