Not enough room for China in Indian Ocean: Maldives

Friday, February 25, 2011

NEW DELHI - Clearly alluding to the expanding ambitions of China in the region, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed Friday underlined the atoll nation’s special ties with India and said there was not enough room for too many players in the Indian Ocean.

Maintaining balance in the Indian Ocean is very important. There is not enough room in the Indian Ocean for other non-traditional friends, Nasheed, who wrapped up his three-day visit to India, told reporters here.

We are not receptive to any installation, military or otherwise in the Indian Ocean, specially from un-traditional friends. The Indian Ocean is the Indian Ocean, the Maldives president replied when asked about China’s increasing foray in the region.

Nasheed, who dislodged Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Maldives’ ruler for three decades, in the landmark 2008 elections, underlined the archipelago nation’s special ties with India.

We have very good friendly relations with India. We believe in being honest with our friends, he replied when asked about Beijing’s attempts to cultivate Male at the expense of New Delhi.

India is a better investment destination. Language, culture, music, food. It’s far easier to deal with India than with China, he replied when asked to compare the experience of doing business with India and China.

In the morning, Nasheed met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed a host of issues, including piracy, maritime security and expanding trade and investment between the two countries.

We had discussions on the Indian Ocean, piracy, climate change and trade and investment, said Nasheed, the youngest leader to head the Indian Ocean atoll island that faces an existential threat from global warming.

Piracy (control) is a very important issue for us. We are sitting right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, he said.

He also discussed the ongoing preparations in his country to host the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in November.

He lauded Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s constructive role at global climate change negotiations at the Mexican city of Cancun last year.

With Ramesh, Nasheed discussed the post-Cancun roadmap for negotiations to curb global warming, an issue of existential importance for the Maldives, one of the world’s lowest lying islands that faces the prospect of extinction in case of a perceptible surge in sea levels triggered by global warming.

In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country practically uninhabitable.

Ruling UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had met Nasheed Thursday.

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