New Delhi: On a day when embattled Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen dispatched special envoys to three “friendly countries — China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia” — it was confirmed that India had rejected a request from the Maldives to send a special envoy to New Delhi. India is miffed that its concerns and that of the international community have been ignored by President Yameen with the undermining of democratic institutions and the judiciary in the Maldives.
The latest developments show a worsening of Indo-Maldivian ties, with Beijing, Islamabad and Riyadh lending a sympathetic ear to the beleaguered Maldivian President.
The Maldivian embassy in India announced that foreign minister Mohamed Asim was to have visited New Delhi “as the first stop” as a special envoy on Thursday but that “the visit was cancelled on the request of the Indian government”. The Maldives said India had informed it that “the said dates were not suitable for India’s leadership”, with the Maldivian embassy making it clear that India had not been “bypassed” in any manner. Indian government sources in New Delhi later confirmed that the request for the Maldivian special envoy’s visit had been turned down.
An angry New Delhi was not ready to receive a special envoy from the Maldives after President Yameen ignored India’s advice to respect the Maldivian Supreme Court order on the release of political prisoners. The Maldivian President had recently declared a state of emergency there, much to India’s dismay. Sources said India has “not seen any real action on the concerns stated by the international community and India” and that “democratic institutions and the judiciary continue to be undermined and concerns ignored, (and that) these issues need to be properly addressed.”
Indian government sources also said “there is a set protocol to send an envoy” and India has “not been informed of the purpose of sending the envoy”. While China and Saudi Arabia have been the main backers of President Yameen, it is the inclusion of Pakistan on the list that is being seen as the most significant message by the Maldivian President. While India and Pakistan are strategic rivals in Saarc, of which the Maldives too is a part, foreign policy observers feel President Yameen has sought to send a clear signal to New Delhi that his government can survive with Chinese, Pakistani and Saudi support, something that is bound to send alarm bells ringing in New Delhi.
India has also been unhappy with the increasing Chinese influence in the Maldives and the way in which the Maldives recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with China. In another statement, the Maldivian government said: “Members of the administration’s Cabinet, on the direction of President Abdulla Yameen, will visit friendly countries of the Maldives and provide updates on the current situation. Minister of economic development Mohamed Saeed has this evening departed to China. Minister of foreign affairs Mohamed Asim has this evening departed to Pakistan. Minister of fisheries Mohamed Shainee is scheduled to depart to Saudi Arabia.”
India had earlier said it was “disturbed” over the Maldivian government’s refusal to abide by verdict of the Supreme Court there on the release of Opposition leaders as well as the suspension of constitutional rights there. India also said it was concerned over the arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures, adding that it was carefully monitoring the situation. Just last week, India had said the Maldivian government must “respect and abide” by last Thursday night’s order of the Supreme Court of the Maldives on the “release of all political prisoners” there. New Delhi had said this should be done in the “spirit of democracy and rule of law”.
President Yameen has dug in his heels and refused to obey the court order on the grounds that it leads to “encroachment on the regulatory powers of the State, the disruption of the functions mandated to State institutions under the Constitution, and the infringement of national security and public interest”, adding that “if implemented, (it) would potentially lead to an undermining of the supremacy of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives”.
The Maldivian Supreme Court had earlier ordered the immediate release of exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed and other Opposition leaders, terming their trials a violation of the Constitution and international law. The Maldives has seen political unrest and street protests since Mr Nasheed was convicted in 2015 on terror charges and sentenced to 13 years in jail, while Mr Nasheed himself was earlier granted asylum by the UK after he was authorised to seek medical treatment there amid mounting foreign pressure. The Maldivian leader, who is currently in Sri Lanka, had welcomed the court order and has said Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen must resign in the wake of the ruling by the Supreme Court....