Nasheed likens 'land grabbing' China to East India Company

Self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday levied fresh land grabbing accusations against China, likening the global superpower to East India Company which had seized control of large parts of the sub-continent in the sixteenth century.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom since taking office in 2013 has looked to China to realize his ambitious infrastructure development plans. Beijing has provided loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.

Concerns that Maldives would fall into a debt trap like Sri Lanka were further fueled after the island nation signed its first bilateral free trade agreement with China late last year.

The contentious agreement was signed after the official talks between president Yameen and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the former's first state visit to the global super power in December last year.

Nasheed who has recently criticized the growing Chinese influence in the Maldives, told the 'The Diplomat' during an extensive interview accusing China of deviously grabbing more land than the East India Company "without firing a single shot."

"The method from many countries is now very clear, and it’s happening in the Maldives. First they changed the state type to an autocracy; the idea is to get unsolicited contracts, without tender and without transparency to make sure there is no democratic oversight. Then step two, you inflate the price of the project. The interest rate is very high, to make sure the project cannot be paid back and then you fall into a debt trap," Nasheed explained.

"The debt is then used as a disciplining regime. Then when we can’t pay back the debt, they ask for the equity, so in the process we relinquish sovereignty."

Nasheed again accused president Yameen of being the internal driver of the land grab saying that the two elements make up the crisis in the once peaceful island nation.