Male: Asserting its 'India First' policy, the Maldivian government on Tuesday claimed that as far as it was concerned, India is its big brother in Asia.
“We have an India first policy and we believe that India is the big brother in the region, not China,” said Mohammed Shainee, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture. She is also the chairperson of the all-party talks committee.
The statement was made in the presence of other senior Maldivian ministers, including Mohamed Saeed who is the Minister of Economics development, Aishath Azima Shakoor who is the Minister of Legal Affairs, and Moosa Zameer, the Minister of tourism.
The statements were made in the President's office in the capital Male in the first international press conference hosted by the island nation this year.
“India will always be our best friend. India need not be threatened by Maldives,” Shainee said.
The ministers claimed that Maldives was concerned about China only when it came to Chinese investments in the island nation. Commenting on the alleged debt trap with regards to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the ministers said it was absolutely certain that there would be no such trap and that it would pay back every penny with the revenue it earns from the investment.
Shainee also tried to allay concerns about Chinese militarisation of Maldives, claiming that "no matter what anybody says or suggests" Maldives will not be militarised and that nobody should be worried about it.
As far the ongoing emergency was concerned, the minister of legal affairs, Shakoor, said that it will not be extended beyond March 23.
The Maldivian government imposed emergency on February 5 for 15 days, and extended it by 30 days on February 20. The emergency gives security forces in the island nation wide-ranging powers to arrest suspected opposition members, prohibit public gatherings and impose travel restrictions. India, China, the US, the UK and Australia are among the countries that have issued travel advisories warning against non-essential travel to the islands.
India has been particularly concerned about developments in Maldives because China is looking to occupy India's place in being the primary player and associate of the tiny Island country. India had three decades ago militarily intervened and ended a coup restoring democracy in the country.
Both India and China have been keenly following the developments in Maldives for the past few weeks. While China has invested millions of dollars in the country through its OBOR projects, India is looking not to lose its strategic grip in the area. Tensions between both countries have risen since emergency was imposed in the state and both countries are said to have put their warships in standby mode.
Disclaimer: Author is in Male on the invitation of Maldives government.