Saudi Arabia is seeking to secure oil trade routes to China through a multi-billion dollar investment in Faafu Atoll, foreign policy experts and the Maldives’ former president have told news agency Climate Home.
Climate Home said the economic future of the Saudi kingdom is bound to the sale of oil, gas and other goods to China, and that the supply lines for that trade run through the Indian Ocean.
“The ships also pass by the Maldives. In this small country, with its growing Wahhabist majority and autocratic government, the Saudis have found – or, according to the Maldivian opposition, created – a pliant ally where few questions are asked and fewer are allowed,” it said.
Last week, unconfirmed reports emerged that the Saudi government intends to buy Faafu Atoll – a collection of 19 low-lying islands 120 kilometres south of the capital Malé and home to 4,000 people.
President Abdulla Yameen has denied the rumors, but said plans for a “mega project” worth USD 10 billion would be disclosed “once the negotiation process was completed”.
Former president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed told Climate Home that the reported sale of Faafu Atoll, which has been subject to no public tender process, was “disturbing”.
“[The Saudis] want to have a base in the Maldives that would safeguard the trade routes, their oil routes, to their new markets, to have strategic installations, infrastructure,” he said.
On Friday, some Faafu Atoll residents staged a protest on the island of Biledhdhoo, under a heavy police presence.
Maldives Police Service had issued a written warning against any demonstration that might embarrass a visiting foreign leader.
Saudi king is scheduled to visit Maldives on March 18.