Former President of the Maldives and the current Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has once again criticized China, accusing the country of taking away the independence and sovereignty of many nations by burdening them with heavy loans.
Speaking at the Indian Ocean Conference held in Maldives, Nasheed said China, in connivance with former President
Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has put the archipelago in deep debt.
"Get hold of a government, buy up a parliament, change the laws, get unsolicited contracts then inflate the price of the contract to the level due to which business plans failed here. Give commercial loans and then, of course, they will not be able to pay it back. When you can't pay back, they ask for equity and with equity, you relinquish sovereignty, including the peace of the Indian Ocean. I am referring to China", said Nasheed.
Nasheed likened China to East India Company that seized control over large parts of the Indian subcontinent, and colonised parts of Southeast Asia between 1600-1800.
"During the last few years, without a single shot being fired, China has grabbed more land than the East India Company had ever done. If I were to take this contract to commercial arbitration it would be the same as someone in Calcutta taking the East India Company to arbitration", said Nasheed.
Nasheed added that while he welcomes foreign investments in the Maldives, it must go through transparent tendering processes and have democratic oversight, and emphasized that the Maldives must be able to benefit from the investments.
The government has previously stated that the China-built Sinamale' bridge project cost over US$1.5 billion. While President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the loans were structured in such a way that it was disadvantageous to the Maldives with extremely high interest rates, he said no records of the details on some agreements with China are available.
President Solih also revealed that while the state has to begin repaying some of the Chinese loans next year, the government was in discussion with china to 're-negotiate' some of the agreements.
Last month, shots were fired on social media between Nasheed and Chinese Ambassador to Maldives Zhang Lizhong over borrowings lent from China after Nasheed said the Maldivian government owes over US$ 3.4 billion to different Chinese companies at the annual conference of Indian Think Tank.
Responding to Nasheed, Ambassador Zhang said while the Sinamale' Bridge project cost US$ 200 million, the Maldivian government has to repay only 50% of the loan as large percentage of the remainder was funded under Chinese grant aid.
The former president then said the total foreign debt of Maldives includes the active sovereign guaranteed debt, in addition to government to government debt, noting that sovereign guarantees issued to Chinese banks are at alarming level.