China amb seeks audience to enlighten 'misinformed' Nasheed

The Chinese Ambassador to Maldives on Sunday said former president Mohamed Nasheed has been deeply "misinformed" in his recent comments over China's relations with the island nation.

Nasheed as recently as Friday had 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 had warned.

Nasheed's warning is linked to the debt amassed by the archipelago to China to fund mega development projects initiated by defeated Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Beijing has provided grant and loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.

According to several media 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.

However, during an exclusive interview with ‘AVAS’, China ambassador to Maldives Zhang Lizhong rejected the figure as “deeply exaggerated”.

The Ambassador insisted that the figures were available at the Maldives central bank which had been duly shared with president elect and some of the coalition party leaders during meetings since the presidential elections in September.

"I don't know how or from where Nasheed is getting this information. I really want to meet Nasheed and inform him the truth. In fact I invite Nasheed to meet me so that I can brief him," the ambassador said.

Nasheed has continued to warn that Maldives could fall into a debt trap similar to neighbouring Sri Lanka.

However, Ambassador Lizhong insisted that such accusations were unsubstantiated and does not align with Chinese policy on bilateral cooperation.

“We have nothing to gain if a friendly country falls into debt. There is no single evidence to support so called debt trap claim. China has always looked to work with other countries for mutual benefit and equality.”