India concerned over Maldives crisis, MDP pitches for Delhi’s mediation


maldives-nasheed-arrestWith the political crisis in the Maldives deepening, India has expressed concerns over the “arrest and mishandling” of former President Mohamed Nasheed as the leading opposition party pitched for India’s intervention.

The Maldives government on February 24 vigorously defended the arrest of Mr Nasheed on terrorism charges and accused him of performing “stunts” to grab global attention.

“When the case begins in a court, how can it be called a political act in a society that believes offenders must be tried?” Presidential Affairs Minister Mohamed Hussein Shareef asserted.

In a shocking eye-catching drama, Mr Nasheed was dragged to the ground outside a Male court by police on February 22, provoking a fresh political crisis in the island nation.

The latest crisis in the troubled Indian Ocean island nation poses a tricky diplomatic situation for India, coming as it does barely weeks before India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Male around mid-March. India has vital stakes in peace and stability in the Maldives, which is being ardently courted by China. China’s President Xi Jinping visited Maldives and managed to sell the idea of Maritime Silk Road to the Indian Ocean atoll nation, better known for its coral blue pristine islands frequented by tourists and honeymooning couples.

As New Delhi weighs in all options to defuse the crisis, India’s external affairs ministry voiced deep concern at “recent developments in the Maldives, including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed.”

The manhandling occurred when Mr Nasheed, who was arrested on February 22, on charges of terrorism was brought to a criminal court in the capital Male. On his way to the court in Male, Mr. Nasheed was stopped from speaking to journalists by the accompanying security forces. When Mr. Nasheed protested, he was seen falling to the ground and being dragged by the police.

The arrest of Mr Nasheed came amid reports of a crackdown by the Maldivian government led by President Abdulla Yameen on opposition politicians and rivals, plunging the picturesque Indian Ocean Island Nation in a fresh bout of prolonged turmoil.

A week back, Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon was in India and had voiced hope that her government had “no doubt that India will adhere to the principle of Panchsheel and will not intervene in domestic politics of Maldives.”

The MDP has pitched for a proactive intervention by India to quell the crisis in the Maldives. “We welcome the recognition in India that the situation in the Maldives merits concern. But we hope it will be backed up by action,” said MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“This arrest and detention is completely arbitrary and is clearly and blatantly politically motivated,” claimed Mr. Nasheed’s lawyer Hisaan Hussein, in a statement.

Ghafoor mentioned that the opposition wants India to send an envoy immediately to mediate in the current crisis and also warned that the current internal security situation could also have an impact on the Indian citizens living in Maldives.

The deepening crisis in the Maldives has also elicited concerns over the US.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal spoke to the Maldives; foreign minister at the weekend to express Washingon’s concern at Nasheed’s arrest and the exacerbating crisis. “She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the rights of peaceful protest and respect for due process,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington.