Meanwhile, since assuming office in November 2013, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has fostered closer ties with Saudi Arabia and China. The president has regularly criticising alleged interference in domestic affairs by Western powers amidst persisting criticism of the government’s human rights track record.

Saudi Arabia and Maldives recently penned an agreement hailed as a “religious bridge” to maintain religious unity here. The kingdom’s Islamic Affairs Minister Saleh bin Abdulaziz visited the Maldives last month and agreed to help improve the collection of Zakat, an Islamic tax, publish books on Islam in English, expedite ongoing mosque projects and train Imams.

The visit came after Saudi Arabia hosted a conference on moderate Islam in Malé. Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad said at the time that the Saudis will help maintain the Maldives’ 100 percent Muslim status.

“A lot of Maldivians may not be aware of this, but there is an organized effort to sustain Western influences here. Those in power in Saudi Arabia understood that it will not do to leave Maldives like this,” he said.

The Saudi government has since agreed to send scholars to Maldives on a regular basis.

In August, Saudi Arabia established a diplomatic mission in the Maldives for the first time. The kingdom also granted US$20 million for budget support earlier this year, and agreed to provide a US$80 million loan for the development of a an urban centre on the artificial island of Hulhumalé.

The government has also revealed that during Yameen’s September visit to Mecca, the Saudi government had agreed to provide cheap crude oil to the Maldives. The crude is to be refined in Singapore.

Two senior ministers meanwhile traveled to Riyad earlier this month to negotiate with the Saudi Investment Fund on investing in the northern iHavan transshipment port.