Beijing: China has set its eyes on Maldives to facilitate its strategic outreach in the wider Indian Ocean, according to International Forum for Rights and Security.
China is continuously trying to create footholds in the island countries of the Indian Ocean Region from Sri Lanka to the Maldives, and further to Mauritius and Seychelles. These small atoll countries need funds for the development of infrastructure and industrialisation. Taking advantage of the scarcity of capital and technology in these countries, China helps them with requisite funds and technological support, as reported by International Forum for Rights and Security.
However, being relatively poor these nations are unable to enter into rewarding and beneficial contracts with Chinese companies. The Maldives is an outstanding example of how China leverages a paucity of funds and technical expertise to its strategic advantage.
The Maldives has described China as a crucial development partner including the provider of funds, and technological & logistical support. With its deep pockets, China has provided millions of dollars to the Maldives as commercial loans. Although Beijing is helping to construct mega infrastructure projects in the Maldives, Chinese loans to the country are continuously increasing and were estimated to be about USD 1.4 billion in 2020, as reported by International Forum for Rights and Security.
Major China aided projects in the Maldives include the expansion of Velana International Airport (VIA), Fahala Island Development Project & Olhugiri Island Project, Housing Projects in Male and Hulhumale and five-star luxury resorts in Kaafu and Gaafu Dhaalu atolls.
However, a major problem with the Chinese projects in the atoll country is their unfeasible size for a small country and also delay in implementation raising the project costs.
On the other hand, it is also believed that China uses underhand methods to win the project bids.
Meanwhile, Beijing also exploits the lack of insight and expertise in these nations to grasp its true intentions. Against this backdrop and given Maldivian experience, the small island countries in Indian Ocean Region need to take Chinese funding with caution, according to International Forum for Rights and Security.