'Indian projects not a debt-trap' : Nasheed

Speaker of the Parliament and former president of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has stated that India-assisted projects are 'not debt-traps'.

Nasheed made the statement at a conference in Gujarat during his current official visit to neighbouring India. Speaking at the conference, Nasheed heavily praised India.

Main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been maintaining strong ties with India after they began administration in 2018. The relationship between Maldives and India was strained before that, with then-President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom maintaining close bilateral ties with China.

However, after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih swore into office in 2018, several development projects have been handed over to India, and the neighbouring nation has been extending their assistance to Maldives in different areas. During the current administration, the most number of loans have been issued to the Maldives from India.

Nasheed said despite Maldives being a small island country, India, as a superpower of the world, has always respected the independence and sovereignty of the archipelago. India has never been a threat to the Maldives, Nasheed pointed out.

"Many superpowers have risen, empires rise and fall and now we see India on the rise. As India rises and attains the status of superpower… We do not see how India's actions have ever been a threat to the Maldives or any of its neighbours. India has always respected our sovereignty and always treated us as equals, however small we are," said Nasheed.

Nasheed also spoke on the projects being carried out with India's assistance.

"Maldives now has a democratic government and now with Indian assistance. It is all very different. Indian projects in the Maldives are transparent and everyone knows what is going on. Everybody knows the price of it. Indian projects tendered by Government of India are transparent. It is very rare, has almost never happened that any of these have become a debt trap. I like India rising," he said.

However, Nasheed, who has always criticized Chinese influence in the region voiced concerns over the rise of China in the Indian Ocean. Nasheed describes Chinese loans as 'debt-traps'.

"We've another superpower coming to the Indian Ocean - China. Unfortunately, the manner in which this superpower is treating the Indian Ocean islands is very, very different," said Nasheed.