A huge uproar against China is being witnessed in the Maldives. Once treated as an honored guest in the Maldives, China is now a vicious enemy for the domestic population. The reason behind this strong sense of animosity and enmity is two-fold. Firstly, the people are angered by Beijing’s inherent nature of oppressing Uyghur Muslims; a Turkic ethnic society, native to Xinjiang and the second-largest predominant Muslim group in China. Secondly, China’s customary habit of snaring poor countries into debt traps and leveraging them for illicit political influence. The Maldives is staring down to the same barrel as that of Sri Lanka, not in entirety but it sure has begun.
A recent incident from July 2021 has portrayed the aggressive nature of the protests as Maldivians protested in front of the Chinese embassy in the archipelago, holding placards and posters which read, ‘Loan Sharks, Uyghur Lives Matter’ and ‘China Out’.
The protests are basically a consequence of major financial irregularities done under the governance of former president Abdulla Yameen. The Protestors raised their concerns about the government’s debt owed in return for extensive loans by China. The current President, Ibrahim Mohammed Salih has initiated an investigation into these loans in 2018, however, the details of the loans are said to be buried in deep fine print and blurred in opacity. Furthermore, the loans are also said to have been sanctioned against major national and sovereign guarantees. The investigations eventually have led to the imprisonment of Yameen over money laundering charges and economic exploitation. Therefore, a protest bearing such an aggressive outlook is rightfully in accordance with the national sentiment.
Like every other protest on the globe, this enraged protest has also swayed a political disturbance in the Maldives with the opposition parties alleging the former president and current speaker, Mohammad Nasheed as the point-person or anchor of the protest. Contrary to the opposition’s stance, Mohammad Naseem has rather approached India for help and is trying to wean his country away from its proximity to China and has further expressed his disappointment as the opposition parties are reluctant to raise their voices in the nation’s interest.
The inception of the protest was a consequent action of a phone call held between President Solih and President Xi. The dialogue between the two highlighted the fearful atmosphere which has blanketed the tiny country of Maldives. President Solih therefore humbly suggested that it is better to work towards strengthening relations between two countries than being a soft prey for mammoth China. The fear of a tiny country like the Maldives, which solely operates on tourism for its revenue can easily fall into the Chinese debt trap and face a similar consequence as that of Sri Lanka, is unparalleled. It is also a worrisome condition for India as, the Maldives is a close neighbor and if its sovereignty ceases to exist, China would gain another piece of land for its mantle and inch closer towards a war against India.
The issue of atrocities inflicted on the Uyghur Muslims is equally prominent. China is already globally condemned for its inherent hatred against Islam and minority groups – sending them to mass detention camps, restricting them from practicing their religion, forcing indoctrination of communism using mass surveillance, etc. As a result, the Muslim masses of Maldives have raised fierce voices against Chinese actions in Xinjiang and have also attested to the opinion of European countries that have termed the said actions as ‘genocide’.