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Maldives come under Chinese sphere of influence

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 authority.

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 confidence.

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 Wednesday.

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.


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