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Issue of ‘Chinese land grabbing’ in Maldives cause of concern: Pentagon

Amid allegations of China engaging in massive land grabbing in the Maldives, the Pentagon on Friday said it was a cause of concern for the US.Asserting that the US was “committed to a free and open” Indo-Pacific rules-based order, the Pentagon said anything else would cause the US concern.“The US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific rules-based order. We have seen concerning developments in Maldives as far as the Chinese influence is concerned,” Joe Felter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, told PTI in interview.“It’s in India’s backyard. We know it’s of concern to India. So, yes, (the situation in Maldives) is a concern. We will see how it plays out. It emphasizes some of our priorities identified in our National Defence Strategy,” the top Pentagon official said.He was responding to a question on the allegations of a Maldivian opposition leader and a former foreign minister, on the Chinese land grabbing activities in the island nation with the potential of developing them into a military outpost.Felter said these developments were “a cause of concern” for all states that supported the maintenance of a rules-based order.

“If you look at similar activities across the region, it gives us some cause for concern. From Djibouti to, Gwadar put to Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and now potentially the Maldives and then extending further east, it’s of concern,” he said.Other countries in the region have expressed similar concern, including India, he noted.“We believe the interests of all states- large and small- are best served by maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific and a rules-based order. Some of China’s activities that we’ve observed give us concern because they do not seem to be consistent with those interests. I suspect India shares these concerns as well,” Felter said.During a recent visit to the US, Ahmed Naseem, a former foreign minister of Maldives, had alleged that China was meddling in internal affairs of Maldives and had indulged itself in a massive land grabbing endeavour which if left unchecked would pose a major strategic threat to both the US and India.China, he alleged, appeared to be keen on building a base in the Maldives which one day may house warships and submarines.

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