Maldives' top diplomat to seek loan details during China visit

Maldives' new foreign minister Abdulla Shahid has refused to comment on reports that the government would renegotiate agreements with China, saying that he would seek out details during his upcoming visit to Beijing next month.

In an exclusive interview with 'AVAS' on Wednesday, insisted that the new government would not comment on the deals with China including the Free Trade Agreement without full details.

The contentious free trade agreement was signed after the official talks between the then Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the former's first state visit to the global super power in 2017.

The Maldives' fast-tracking of the FTA with China has sparked concerns alleging that Sino-Maldivian trade balance remains considerably in favour of China, and there are concerns that the FTA will further increase the deficit and push Maldives towards a debt trap like Sri Lanka -- an issue that has alarmed Delhi amid apprehensions of neighbourhood plunging into economic crisis in future.

"The free trade agreement is very one-sided... the numbers don't match," ex-president Mohamed Nasheed told the BBC.

The Maldives' parliament would not approve the law required for the trade deal to come into force, he added.

"The agreement has been already signed. So the government can only say anything after finding out all the details," Shahid said noting the contentious circumstances under which the agreement was rushed through the parliament.

"If we say anything without finding out all the details it can harm relations between the two countries. So first, we must find out all the details before commenting," the seasoned diplomat and former lawmaker insisted.

Nasheed recently 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.

Shahid said he would be accompanied by the finance minister and the economic minister during his trip which also included visits to neighboring India and the middle-east.

"We need to find out details of the loans and free aid given to us by China. We must find where it all meets. We need to find out the weight of the loans and reshape the loan agreements in a way that we can carry them," Shahid said.