The United States of America declared Friday that the growing “Chinese influence” in the Maldives was a cause of concern for the superpower.
In an interview to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the US’ Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, Joe Felter said, “The US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific rules-based order. We have seen concerning developments in Maldives as far as the Chinese influence is concerned.”
His statement was in response to allegations made by convicted former president Mohamed Nasheed and former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem, that China was engaging in land grabbing in the Maldives and meddling with the archipelago’s internal affairs.
Felter noted that other countries of South Asia, including India, have raised concerns over China’s increasing presence in the Maldives.
“It’s in India’s backyard. We know it’s of concern to India. So, yes, (the situation in Maldives) is a concern. We will see how it plays out. It emphasizes some of our priorities identified in our National Defence Strategy,” he said.
The Maldivian government had earlier hit back at Nasheed’s allegations of certain islands being given to China, refuting the rumours of land grabbing.
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has been significantly increasing the island nation’s relations with the Asian superpower over the past four years, with China investing in major infrastructural development projects in the Maldives. However, entities in India have raised concerns over China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, and ties between the Maldives and India appear to be souring, notably in the midst of the recent political upsurge in the former.