China has no strategic interest in Maldives: Minister
Maldives has sought help from India in developing its media to accelerate democratic reforms and asserted that China was no competitor to India, the only country with which the island nation has a defence cooperation relationship.
"Maldives has not had a defence relationship with any country other than India. We have a good relationship with China. But there is no strategic involvement of China in our country," Maldives Information and Arts Minister Mohamed Nasheed told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club here.
"India rescued Maldives in 1988. Had they not come to our rescue, we would not be where we are now," said Nasheed, the youngest minister in the Maldivian government.
He was referring to Operation Cactus when India sent troops to overthrow the mercenaries who had overpowered the anti-government forces at the request of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 1988.
India has a vibrant defence cooperation relationship with Maldives that includes joint military exercise and exchange of technical know-how.
New Delhi wants to establish a logistics and maritime intelligence listening post in the Maldives soon.
The Indian Navy is also keen to establish intelligence-gathering base on the island chain to secure its interests in the Indian Ocean.
The proposal was discussed during the visit of Defence Minster Pranab Mukherjee to the Maldives last month.
Calling Indian media the "freest in the world," he also has sought India's help in the institutionalisation of the media and said that his country wants to follow the Prasar Bharati model of the Indian public broadcasting.
He conveyed this to Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi whom he met on Wednesday.
Nasheed, who was here on a four-day visit, also thanked India for providing timely assistance the aftermath of the tsunami that killed thousands in nine countries including Maldives.
"India was one of the first few countries to help us in the aftermath of the tsunami," he said as he underlined steps taken by his government, like the construction of low-cost housing, to minimise damages in the event of another tsunami.
Nasheed was also upbeat about the scale of democratic transformation currently under way in his country.
"We are pursuing a larger agenda of democratic reforms, which will make our country a modern nation."
According to the roadmap unveiled by Maumoon Gayoom, who has been president since 1978, the archipelago will have elections next year and will see in phases the release of all political prisoners.
He called reports about the island nation sinking in the sea as "media sensation," but added that after the tsunami, the country had become more vulnerable to erosion.