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NEW DELHI: Setting off fresh concerns over China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, the
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% 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, on November 29, the Speaker of parliament called for an emergency sitting, 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.