Government claims the move would not threaten the Maldives’ sovereignty
and is needed to attract large-scale foreign investment. Photo /
For the oligarch who has everything, it is a tantalising news. The
Maldives Government has passed a law which will, for the first time,
allow foreigners to purchase land, meaning the tropical islands with
their white sands could be snapped up by anyone with a spare US$1
billion ($1.52 billion).
But the detail of the new law has a
sting in its tail. Not only must potential investors be prepared to
spend at least US$1 billion to own land on one of the 1200 islands in
perpetuity, they must also commit to 70 per cent of that land being
reclaimed from the Indian Ocean.
The conditions have raised
concern that the bill is designed to clear the way for the Chinese to
set up bases in the Maldives, which straddles vital international
east-west shipping routes. China has expertise in reclamation technology
and can easily make investments of that size.
India, which considers itself the regional superpower, is already wary of increased Chinese involvement in the area.
Eva Abdulla, an MP with the opposition Maldivian Democratic
Party, said she feared the nation could become a front line for a
potential power struggle between India and China.
“What is in our
interest is peace and stability in the Indian Ocean. India is our
neighbour and we are not a country in the South China Sea,” she said.
of the vote, President Abdulla Yameen’s half brother Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom, the country’s former leader, who ruled for three decades until
2008, had urged further debate on the move.
Anand Kumar, a
strategic affairs analyst at the Institute for Defence Studies and
Analyses in New Delhi, agreed that the law could be designed to help
China gain a foothold in the region.
“They have been creating
islands in the South China Sea, and they will try to replicate the same
exercise in the Indian Ocean,” he said.
“They tried to do the
same thing with Sri Lanka. It appears that since they have lost
political influence in Sri Lanka, they are trying to regain the same
ground in the Maldives.”
The Government claims the move would not
threaten the Maldives’ sovereignty and is needed to attract large-scale
However, it is just the latest in a string of controversial decisions taken by Yameen since he came to power in 2013.
was declared President after a run-off vote, which had been delayed on
the orders of the Supreme Court following a first-round election led by
the opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.