A Chinese marine observatory to be built in the Maldives will have no military purpose, state media said Tuesday,
The Global Times said the aim of the proposed facility in Makunudhoo island, in Haa Dhaalu atoll in the north west, was to “observe the climate and the ocean, and deepen cooperation in marine ecology preservation, prevention of marine disasters and marine scientific research.”
It denied Indian media claims that China had an ulterior motive for positioning the observatory in the Maldives.
“Any cooperation China conducted with South Asian countries is interpreted by the Indian side as besieging India, as India believes South Asia is its backyard,” Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The agreement allowing China to build the observatory was among the 12 MUOs signed when President Abdulla Yameen visited Beijing last December.
Mohamed Shakir, the president of Makunudhoo island council, told the Maldives Independent that his council was unaware of any plans for an ocean observatory.
“I also saw this information on social media. It cannot be taken seriously. The island council has not been informed at all on any plans for this,” he said.
The Times of India reported Sunday that the observatory would have civilian and military applications.
It quoted a strategic affairs expert who made the allegation based on reports about the design of a proposed Chinese ocean observatory to be built in the South China Sea.
“The underwater ocean observation center in the South China Sea will be dual purpose, with civilian and military applications. China’s supposed plan to build such a center in the Maldives would effectively open a Chinese maritime front against India,” Brahma Chellaney said.
Makunudhoo is 511 kilometres from India.
The Maldives Independent contacted the foreign ministry for comment but nobody was answering the phone.