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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost?

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China has been aggressively pushing its geopolitical strategy ‘String of Pearls’ in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Islands in 2006

Maldives is critical to its ambitious plans in the IOR and knowing that it has got the Maldivian government currently under Dr Mohammed Muizzu under its control owing to its $3 billion debt trap, it has practically decided to turn some islands into People’s Liberation Army (PLA) outposts – Feydhoo Finolhu is one such island.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Island 2017

Feydhoo Finolhu in Maldives was previously managed by the Police Welfare Company. In 2016, the Maldivian government under its President Abdulla Yameen leased the island for 50 years (up to 2066) to a consortium of Chinese companies Shenzhen Sunpen Investments, Mirich Investments, and a Maldivian businessman Abdul Latheef for $4 million for resort development under the company name Pearl Atoll Private Limited (PAPL), keeping in line with China’s ‘String of Pearl’ strategy in the IOR.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Islands 2023

The island is strategically located near the international airport in Male. Feydhoo Finolhu island was used by the Maldivian police to house jail inmates since 2006 and in 2010 it reopened as a correctional training center for children before being leased out to Chinese investors.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Island 2023

In 2017, PAPL started its work to develop the island under the guise of resort development. On its website, it is mentioned that the company is a sister concern of Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited.

GoaChronicle investigations into the Shehzhen Mireach Industries Limited revealed that it is a company known to be in the exports of kitchenware, furniture & furnishings, home decor, hand tools, and service equipment but it reportedly by their admission diversified into construction and real estate with a reported turnover of between $2 million to $5 million. Yet it bagged a lease for 50 years from the Maldivian government at $4 million when the valuation then was around $15 million and interestingly, it had promised to donate, according to the Maldivian Police Department, $85 million to the welfare of the Maldivian police and their families over the 50-year lease period.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Island 2023
Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Island 2023

PAPL constructed an extension that was previously 38,000 sq. meters to 100,000 sq. meters by accelerating the drilling, dredging, and landfilling to make an artificial extension for the island, in simple words. The developer has dredged a channel into the reef and created a small harbor for boats to dock. One can opine that the harbor is for commercial boats on the island that is being promoted as a resort project but it does not rule out the fact that PLA Navy (PLAN) boats cannot dock at this harbor. Interestingly, it has been over 6 years since the resort is still under development, it was to open in 2020, and it is 2024 but the semblance of resort activities is reportedly negligible.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Feydhoo Finolhu Island 2023

China already has access to outposts in Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It also maintains an intelligence unit base at Coco Islands near the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. China needs Maldives to complete its strategy to surround India from all sides in the IOR after the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, Gwadar Port in Pakistan, and Kyaukpyu Port in Myanmar. As a part of its ‘String of Pearls’ strategy in the IOR, China has invested close to $25 billion over the last couple of years in strategic locations tactically – Port of Sudan, Massawa New Port, Dolareh Multipurpose Port, Tadjourah Port, Mombassa Port, Zanzibar New Port, Dar Es Salaam Port, Lamu Port, Beira City Fishing Port, Tamatave Port, Techobanine Port, Port of Durban, Richards Bay Port, Chittagong Port, Karachi Deepwater Terminal, Colombo Port Terminal, Payra Port and Bagamoya Port.

The conundrum around Feydhoo Finolhu Island mirrors China’s deceitful development in the Spratly Islands, where China through its frontal companies undertook extensive land reclamation at rocks and reefs under its control from a small 346 sq meters to 68,544 sq meters. It was considered to be a methodical, well-planned campaign to create a chain of air and sea-capable fortress.

Is Feydhoo Finolhu Island in Maldives housing a Chinese military outpost? - China, Feydhoo Finolhu Islands, Pearl Atoll Private Limited, PLA, PLAN, Shenzhen Mireach Industries Limited, Spratly Islands
Changes in the Spratly Islands over the years

Despite promises not to militarise its footprints on the Spratly Islands, China has deployed artillery pieces and rockets, and also built runways that can support fighter and cargo aircraft. Philipines chose to submit the dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague but Beijing refused to participate in the hearings

China’s research ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 in Maldives docked at Male earlier this week after a month-long sail across the Indian Ocean. The Chinese ship was granted the permission by Maldives as China affirmed the position of the ship for a peaceful purpose and aimed at contributing to the scientific understanding of the ocean.  Xiang Yang Hong 03 has visited the Indian Ocean multiple times.  In 2022, Yuan Wang 5, a military vessel capable of tracking rocket and missile launches, arrived in Colombo, alarming India.

Having a PLA base at Feydhoo Finolhu Islands poses a direct threat to India’s security. China continues to deny this truth and PAPL continues to pose as a resort developer but one cannot overlook the fact that the island is 900 km from Minicoy Island and 1000 km from India’s mainland. India does not have any military bases in the area and has only established radar outposts or surveillance systems in Seychelles, Madagascar, and Mauritius. The idea of using these islands as a way to extend patrols fits China’s larger “maritime rights” enforcement strategy in the South China Sea, whereby it prevents other countries from pursuing fishing, energy exploration, construction, or other activities in the area, regardless of whether other countries accept China’s claims or not, thereby asserting effective control. Any Chinese military base would strengthen China’s ability to control maritime freedom of movement in the region and act as a buffer for Taiwan.

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