The Maldives government has signed a free trade agreement with China
without taking the people into confidence setting off fresh concerns over
growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. After having promised that they
are open to global investment in development of Colombo East port, Sri Lankan
president Mathripala Sirisena said the port will be managed by Sri Lankan Port
Setting off fresh concerns over China's growing presence in the Indian
Ocean, the Maldives government has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with
Beijing without taking the country's opposition, or even the people, into
According to the Maldives opposition, the archipelago already owes almost
70 per cent of its debt to China. Maldives remains the only country in the
region which PM Narendra Modi is yet to visit.
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 Indian Ocean region," said the main
opposition party, MDP's statement.
According to the opposition, the Speaker of parliament has called for an
emergency sitting on November 29, to pass the FTA with China. While the
negotiations had been completed in September, Yameen signed the document on
The agreement was apparently sent to the parliamentary oversight committee
on national security affairs within 3 minutes of submission to the floor.
"The committee vetting the agreement took less than 10 minutes. The
committee was conducted against parliamentary procedures... with deliberations
closed off for the public and to the media... MPs were not given access to the
document... The government allowed for less than 1 hour for the parliamentary
process to approve the 1000+ page document," said the statement.
Indications were given that the Sri lankan governemnt was open to the idea
of global investment in development of Colombo East port after having given the
management of one terminal to a Chinese company. India was getting ready to bid
for the project and Container Corporation of India was listed to do the
bidding. Two days ago Sri Lankan President M Sirisena said the Colombo east
port will be developed by the Sri Lankan Port authority.