Former president Mohamed Nasheed on Friday insisted that despite Maldives amassing USD3 billion in debt to China, the new government would only pay back "the exact amount owed" accusing the global superpower of aiming to enslave the archipelago.
Beijing has provided loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.
According to reports, Maldives' president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's transitional teams had discovered that the country owed the Chinese government not USD1.5 billion, as had been widely estimated, but nearly USD3 billion.
Speaking to local residents on his visit to Dhihdhoo island on Friday, Nasheed insisted that the opposition government would pay back the country's debt to China but after "weighing" what it actually owed.
"We will pay for what was actually provided to the Maldives by any foreign country. But we want to find out what's behind that USD3.2 billion. We know what the cost of concrete is for the bridge. We must weigh it all. We can only pay for what was actually given to us," Nasheed said.
Nasheed also warned the Maldivian people to be wary of an emerging colonial power in the Indian Ocean which is aiming to enslave the country.
"An emerging power in the Indian Ocean has its eyes firmly fixed on the Maldives. Yes. I'm talking about China. If the Maldivian people fail to heed the threat, history would repeat itself by the middle of this century," Nasheed warned.
Maldives has remained strategically key to in the battle between India and China for regional supremacy.
Bilateral ties between India and Maldives had soured after the now defeated Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in February declared state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticized trials.
India has also been irked by Yameen's government turning 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.