India’s share of investment and project funding in its small island neighbour is declining, the Maldives ambassador told the Deccan Chronicle on Sunday.
“There is more project funding that is coming from China into Maldives, when compared to what’s coming from India. Yes, India’s share is declining but we have never said ‘no’ to encouraging India’s share,” Ahmed Mohamed was quoted as telling reporters during a two-day visit to Chennai.
Since multi-party democracy was introduced with the 2008 constitution, presidents must deliver development projects to get re-elected, he explained.
“And for that, we approach all our bilateral partners to provide project funding. We don’t ask for grants; we ask for loans, concessional loans. India also has provided through Exim Bank funding for some housing projects and road constructions. But can I say provide more funding for more projects? That’s not our call. If you want to promote your interests in Maldives, it is your responsibility; not mine.”
The ambassador was responding to concerns about growing Chinese influence in the Maldives through the financing of infrastructure projects.
Traditionally close India-Maldives ties have been strained since a state of emergency was declared in February. The Maldives took the extraordinary step of directly rebuking New Delhi after it expressed “deep dismay” about the parliament’s extension of emergency rule.
More recently, India was told to stay away from the political crisis, which was called an internal matter like Kashmir.
Ahmed Mohamed went on to say that the pace of decision-making through bureaucracies must be accelerated to match the pace of development.
“Everybody talks of China having deep pockets. I am sure India is equally rich. India has rich resources, big population. But the system is different.”
He continued: “We want India to be big brother to us; a good big brother”.
“Every time Maldives was in crisis, India was the first to reach out to us—the 1988 [failed coup attempt], 2004 tsunami and the water crisis in 2014. This has been our biggest strength as great neighbours. We cannot wish away our geographical and cultural proximity.”