Feature Article

China timed SAARC summit to open embassy in Maldives

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 November 2011, 18:41 GMT]
China hurriedly opened a full-fledged embassy in the Republic of Maldives on 8 November, just two days before the 17th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held this time in Addu in the southern most atoll of Maldives between 10–11 November. Commenting that such efforts by China in the region cannot be prevented, the Indian Defence Minister A. K. Anthony on Tuesday said, "China is expanding its military capabilities and building military infrastructure along the borders with us. We know that...we are aware of that, and we are concerned about that," Deccan Herald reported Thursday. India balanced the development by signing a pact worded as ‘maritime and counter-terrorism cooperation’ by which both nations agreed “their respective territories would not be allowed for any activity inimical to the other and by any quarter.”

Chinese open Embassy in Maldives

Extending 100 million US dollar credit line to Maldives, the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh in his address to the Maldivian parliament said, “This is our extended neighbourhood. We wish to work with the Maldives and other like-minded countries to ensure peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region.”

The Indian Navy was patrolling the Maldives, especially the Addu Atoll, to protect the heads of government of 8 countries of the region, including Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, besides the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, USA and EU participated as Observers in the summit.

China was demanding for ‘Dialogue Partner’ status in the SAARC, similar to the privilege it now enjoys in ASEAN.

Responding to media questions at the end of the summit, the Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed said, “There was no hurry or further discussion to make China a dialogue partner.”

The 17th SAARC conference having the paradigm “Building Bridges” made declarations on many Establishment-important topics related to integration of trade, transport, universities, energy etc., including ‘coordinated and concerted efforts to combat terrorism’ and combating maritime piracy, had nothing to say on genocides, land-grabs, increasing state-conducted human rights violations and the unresolved national questions that actually plague the peoples of the region.

Addu, the southern-most atoll of Maldives lying just 45 minutes south of the equator. Note the airport and the entrance to the natural harbour protected by the atoll. [Image courtesy: Google Earth]

India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Chagos
India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Chagos [Image courtesy: Google Earth]
The choice of Addu for the summit and the show of China and India are symbolic of the on-going power games in the southern part of South Asia.

The Addu atoll (from Adda-duvu, meaning eight islands) formally had a British base and airstrip at the island of Gan (from Gung/Gamu- meaning village). It was of much strategic importance to the British during World War II, and later when Britain had to quit the bases in Trincomalee and Katunayake after SWRD Bandaranayake capturing power in Ceylon in 1956.

The Addu Atoll located at the southern most tip of the Maldivian archipelago has a well-protected deep-sea harbour.

Beyond the Addu Atoll towards the south, lies the Chagos archipelago and the US-British joint base in the island Diego Garcia.

Addu was also the centre of a de facto state United Suvadives Republic that was running a government parallel to that at Male for 8 years in the late 50s and early 60s, with tacit British support.

With India-led non-alignment challenging continued European colonialism in the east in the 50s and 60s, and with the prospects of developing a US-UK base at Diego Garcia, the British decided to abandon Addu and its de facto state. Male conquered it and the bitter memories and antagonism still exist in the psyche of the peoples of Addu and Male.

The governments in Male carefully suppressed Addu, the former hub of maritime trade and economy, for nearly half a century.

The government in Male now ‘developing’ Addu with a new city status, international airport, harbour, SAARC summit etc., are coupled with new power rivalry seeking status quo over the archipelago controlling strategic maritime alleys.

President Nasheed perhaps thinks Maldives cannot resist playing a role in the power equations.

Recently he even invited Israel to have activities in one of the islands.

Maldives made a symbolic military presence in favour of genocidal Colombo during the war and its defence minister recently visited the occupying SL military in Jaffna.

Maldives under Nasheed is proactive in shielding genocidal Colombo in the international arena. Nasheed’s government is also in recent times accused of increased human rights violations domestically.

The loser is actually India, because whatever China gains in the region are new gains for it.

Naturally India should have had the pre-eminence in the region, not status quo.

But, by the foul play of waging a proxy war for the genocide of the natural-ally nation of Eezham Tamils, India has not prevented the entry of China. Instead, it has inspired countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives to further consolidate Chinese influence.

India’s fallout with the nation of Ezham Tamils and its continued denial to the independence of Eezham Tamils are very likely to enhance Chinese inroads into the southern flanks of South Asia, to an extent that India will be totally helpless at a point.

For instance, if there is another coup in Maldives like the one that took place in 1988, India now cannot be the exclusive and confident saviour.

Maldives President meets SL President
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa meeting at 17th SAARC Summit at Addu in Maldives [Photo courtesy: www.seventeenthsaarcsummit.mv ]

Eager to flaunt its newly acquired status quo in southern South Asia, two days before the SAARC summit China opened its embassy in Male, the capital of Maldives.

China was in such a hurry for the occasion that even though its own building was not ready, it rented out a guest house, Canary Lodge, located at Majeedhe Magu, the main street in Male, to convert it into the embassy.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun visited Male for the occasion.

President Nasheed avoided attending the opening ceremony, and on his behalf, his special envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki and Abdulla Shahid Speaker of the Majlis (both of whom are veteran diplomats) participated the event to inaugurate the embassy along with Zhang Zhijun.

Until now, the Chinese embassy in Colombo was looking after China’s diplomatic interests in Maldives.

China is the fifth country to have an embassy in Maldives, after Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Maldives opened its embassy in China in August 2007.

India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Chagos
India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Chagos [Image courtesy: Google Earth]

Related Articles:
13.10.11   Maldives defence minister visits Jaffna
28.09.11   Maldives President thinks Sunanda Deshapriya a Tamil
28.09.11   Regimes in Sri Lanka, Maldives, forge questionable alliance

External Links:
Deccan Herald: India not worried over China's embassy in Maldives: Antony
Chinaembassy.se: Chinese Embassy in Maldives Holds Opening Ceremony


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