Comparing China to the East India Company, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged that without firing a bullet Beijing has grabbed more land than East India Company.
In his address to the Indian Ocean Conference in Male, Nasheed, who is currently serving as the speaker of the Maldivian parliament, accused his previous government, under former President Abdulla Yameen, of putting the country in deep debt in connivance with China.
"Get hold of a government, buy up a parliament, change the laws, get unsolicited contracts then inflate the price of the contract to the level due to which business plans failed here. Give commercial loans and then, off course, they will not be able to pay it back. When you can't pay back, they ask for equity and with equity, you relinquish sovereignty, including the peace of the Indian Ocean. I am referring specifically to China," Nasheed told ANI.
Nasheed served as the fourth President of the Maldives from 2008 to 2012 and was the archipelago's first democratically elected president, ending three decades rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
"In recent times there has been an amazing rush to land grab. Although land grabs are occurring worldwide, they are common where protection of human rights is poor. It has a combination of practice, international and domestic drivers the Maldives up until the recent presidential election in 2018 was a flourishing land grab paradise," he added.
"If I were to take this contract to commercial arbitration it will be the same as somebody in Kolkata taking the East India Company for arbitration," the speaker added.
Nasheed, in May, was unanimously chosen to head the country's parliament or People's Majlis, by his Maldivian Democratic Party after it won a near three-quarter majority in the 87-member assembly in April.
The former president, who until November was in exile, returned to the Maldives in November after the Supreme Court cleared him of terrorism charges imposed by the previous regime.
He stressed that in order to seek more foreign investments in the Maldives, particularly in the case of China, it must undergo transparent tendering processes.
"It must have a democratic oversight and we must be able to benefit from these investments. It can't be vanity," Nasheed said.
"During the last five years, a large amount of commercial money had come to the Maldives. They have been invested or spent on unviable inflated projects and most of these projects are funded by the Chinese EXIM Bank They do not have a business plan to it. The business plans failed here because prices were so high and then when they can't pay the debt they ask for equity and in the process, we lose sovereignty," he stressed.
"It is an issue of concern for us and we believe it's very unfair. Accurate amount of money that came to the Maldives must be understood and only that amount of money should be paid back," the former president said.