The former ruling party has raised national security concerns over the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in hydrography signed by the Maldives and India.
The MoU is part of six agreements signed between the two countries during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the Maldives on Saturday.
Former defence minister MP Adam Shareef told local media that allowing India to know everything there is to know about Maldivian waters was tantamount to sharing state secrets with India.
“Earlier, India wanted to do this. Even during the presidencies of Nasheed, Waheed and Yameen. During my time as the defence minister, when we discussed this with the MNDF [Maldives National Defence Force], they said that it was something that shouldn’t even be considered,” Shareef told Sun Online.
According to the president’s office, the MoU on hydrography “will further strengthen the capability of the Maldivian government to map out our coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, and better utilise the resources contained therein.”
Responding to Shareef, MP Mohamed Waheed said that India already knows more about the Indian Ocean than the Maldives does.
“India already knows more about the ‘Indian Ocean’ than Maldivians. India does not refrain from invading the Maldives because they don’t know our oceans and reefs or because of the superiority of our armed forces. [They do not invade the Maldives] because we are an independent and sovereign neighbour,” he tweeted.
Most of the hydrographic surveys of the Maldives have been undertaken by India. The first accurate maritime charts of the country were commissioned by the East India Company’s Indian Navy in the 1830s. India’s National Hydrographic Office said they had conducted five hydrographic surveys of the Maldives.
The former ruling party, the Progressive Party of Maldives, also criticised the decision to start cargo and passenger ferry services between ports in the Maldives and Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala.
The party said a study had not been conducted ahead of the agreement.
“This opens the doorway to human trafficking, drug smuggling and [for India] to populate the Maldives for economic or social reasons,” a statement issued by the PPM said.
First proposed in 2011, the cargo ferry service will operate between Kochi and Malé and Kulhudhuhfushi “or any other mutually agreed ports”. Aside from providing access to Indian markets, the passenger and cargo shipping service will “establish routes for easy and affordable passenger travel between Maldivian and Indian ports”.