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Despite 'India First' policy, Maldives signs deal with Chinese energy firm

In a significant development, the Maldives has roped in Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, the Chinese firm whose projects Sri Lanka had canceled after objection from India over security concerns,  to design, supply, and install power generation plants in 12 of its 200 inhabited islands. Significantly, the archipelago officially follows the ‘India First’ policy

Dec 03, 2021
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India-China-Maldives

In a significant development, the Maldives has roped in Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, the Chinese firm whose projects Sri Lanka had canceled after objection from India over security concerns,  to design, supply, and install power generation plants in 12 of its 200 inhabited islands. Significantly, the archipelago officially follows the ‘India First’ policy. 
 
“We are installing [a] total of 2.5 MW of solar PV, 975 kW of Battery Energy Storage Systems and other related works in all the inhabited islands in Thaa Atoll — with this, we will reduce our emissions by 2,900 tonnes of CO2 and save approx mvr 12 million annually,” Shauna Aminath, the Minister of Environment, Climate Change & Technology said earlier this week. 

Interestingly, the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka put out a tweet, which pointed out figures at both Sri Lanka and India. 

“Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, being suspended to build Hybrid Energy system in 3 northern islands in [Sri Lanka ]due to 'security concern' from a third party, has inked a contract with Maldivian gov't on 29 Nov to establish solar power plants at 12 islands in [the Maldives]” reads the tweet. 

Interestingly, three islands in Sri Lanka, where the projects were to be set up by the Chinese firms, are just 50 km off the Indian coast in Tamil Nadu state. India had raised security concerns on the projects and even offered $12 million in grants for the projects only if the government awarded the projects to an Indian firm. 

Earlier, the projects were to be funded by loans from the Asian Development Bank. After the cancelation of the deal, China reacted strongly, termed it “outrageous interference” by a “third party” in a veiled reference to India. 

Interestingly, Tamil parties in the north and northeastern Sri Lanka had also objected to awarding energy projects to Chinese firms. In October, when Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla visited Sri Lanka, he had reportedly told Tamil politicians that New Delhi would not “appreciate” any “Third Party” presence in the country’s north and northeastern part, where India had already invested heavily. 


After signing the project with the Maldivian government, the firm said it won the project through competitive bidding, reported The Hindu. 

The recent deal is also significant in the way that the current Maldivian government, which came to power in 2018, has officially opted for the “India First” policy, and its ties with China remained cold. Furthermore, India has invested heavily in the Maldives, financing big infrastructure projects, deepening defense ties, and announcing several projects on Indian grants. 
(SAM)

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