Sunday, March 5, 2017

Maldives plan to sell atoll to Saudi Arabia has India worried

Members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party told TOI that the decision to “sell” Faafu — one of the 26 atolls — to Saudi Arabia would aggravate Wahabism in the country. The archipelago already accounts for one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria in terms of per capita.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will be travelling to Maldives soon. MDP member and former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem said the government did not bother to take people’s consent. “In the old days, selling land, which is scarce in Maldives, to foreigners would have been seen as high treason punishable by death.”

The government passed a constitutional amendment in 2015 that allowed foreigners to own land in the Maldives. Maldives remains the only country in India’s neighborhood that PM Narendra Modi has avoided visiting. India has been unwilling to be seen as obtruding upon the internal affairs of Maldives. However, it may soon be required to take a position with elections likely next year in the country.

MDP chief and former president Mohamed Nasheed, currently living in exile in London, will contest the polls.
He told TOI last month, that India had a moral obligation to ensure free and fair elections in the country. MoS M J Akbar recently visited Male and reiterated India’s support for a “stable, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Maldives fulfilling the aspirations of its citizens”.

According to MDP, the decision to cede the atoll should be seen in the context of propagation of Wahabism for decades now and also Male’s decision to sever its 41-year-old ties with Iran at the behest of Saudi Arabia. “Saudis fund scholarships for 300 students every year. About 70% of Maldivian population already subscribes to the Wahabi sect,” said a MDP official. “There is a plan by Yameen to bring in Islamic teachers from Saudi Arabia. This will turn these schools to madrasas.”



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