- NL Sena
Maldives’ parliament, in an emergency meeting on Wednesday night, signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China without taking the country’s opposition, or even the people, into confidence, media reports said. The deal heightens concerns over China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and has alarmed India.
The haste with which the government, led by President Abdulla Yameen, decided to pass the pact – the parliament session took barely half an hour and was attended by only 30 of 85 members – is being perceived here as Male trying to cosy up to China, The Indian Express said.
Maldives does not have an FTA with India and is also the only nation Prime Minister Narendra Modi as not visited in India’s neighbourhood. Meanwhile, president Yameen is also planning to visit China this month.
The newspaper quoted a source as saying: “We are examining the issue… and the ramifications of the FTA on our trade with Maldives.”
Pakistan is the only other nation in South Asia with which China has an FTA. According to Maldives’ presidential office communique, the FTA will “enable exemption of duties on fisheries products exported to the world’s largest consumer market”.
A report in The Times of India said that despite its stated India-First policy formulation, the Abdulla Yameen government has shown scant regard for India’s security-related concerns. “We are also deeply concerned that further entrenchment of the country into a Chinese debt trap will result in additional stress on strategic national assets and increasing instability in the Indian Ocean region,” main opposition party MDP said in a statement.