Denying any strategic tilt towards China, former president of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, on Tuesday said his country is welcoming Chinese proposals because it finds them "more attractive".
Delivering a lecture on "Islam: A religion of peace" at the Observer Research Foundation here, Gayoom, who is now president of the country's ruling party, Progressive Maldives Party, said his country welcomed business proposals from all countries.
"We have said so many times, businessmen from India are welcome, as business from other countries like Russia, China. We are open to all. But the proposals have to be reasonable and attractive. We find proposals from China more attractive, " said Gayoom, who was the Maldives President for 30 years before losing the 2008 presidential election to Mohammad Anni Nasheed.
"We are a small country which needs development. We welcome all countries, and decide on proposals based on their merits, " Gayoom said pointing out that his country has been and would remain a strong partner with India.
"India was and will remain the most important strategic partner to Maldives, " Gayoom said when asked about Maldives' "overtures" to China. He denied that his country was making any overtures to China.
He said it was not wise to reject "attractive" Chinese proposals as it would be seen as rejecting economically better proposals besides the country losing economically.
Gayoom said he was worried about the future of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) which, according to him, "has lost track of what we are doing to fulfil the promises we had made in the beginning".
Regarding the domestic situation in his country, Gayoom denied that there was any fear among the people to talk about anything. People were free to discuss anything and "you can see in newspapers people making allegations against the ministers and even the president", he said.
Gayoom blamed "ignorance" of the tenets of Islam for the violence going on in the name of religion.
He said in Islam, killing even one person was like killing humanity. Islam was against any kind of violence against children, women, other weaker sections.
"It is also against conversion and killing of people from other religions, " Gayoom said.
He said the Islamic State, which was acting against the tenets of Islam and also damaging the religion of peace and magnanimity, was actually acquiring territories and wealth.
He pointed out that for this purpose, they are also using hundreds of European mercenaries, belonging to other religions. He described it as a complex situation.
The former Maldivian president expressed regret over the misuse of "jihad" which in Islam was only allowed as an act of self - defence in the event of a threat of aggression.