NEW DELHI: India reacted strongly to Maldives’ extension of emergency, saying it was “deeply dismayed” at the development, particularly the illegal methods used to push the extension through parliament. India’s sentiments were conveyed by Indian ambassador Akhilesh Mishra to Maldives foreign secretary Ahmed Sareer in Male this evening.
“We are deeply dismayed that the government of Maldives has extended the State of Emergency for a further 30 days. The manner in which the extension of the State of Emergency was approved by the Majlis in contravention of the Constitution of Maldives is also a matter of concern,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement. “It is important to ensure that all democratic institutions are allowed to function in a fair and transparent manner in accordance with the Constitution.”
It further said that the consequent delay in the resumption of the political process and the continuing suspension of the functioning of democratic institutions, including the judiciary, is likely to further delay restoration of normalcy in Maldives. Maldives parliament rushed through the extension on Tuesday, hours after India warned against the extension.
The Maldives, the Indian statement said, “takes note with appreciation the concerns being expressed by friends and partners in the international community … Parliament has provided relief by lifting some of the restrictions imposed on Constitutional Articles under the State of Emergency and by imposing the State of Emergency only upon individuals alleged to have carried out illegal activities and in the places they stayed.”
Assuring that the move was a “last resort”, the Maldives president’s statement read: It was done “to ensure national security and constitutional order, to uphold the rule of law and to safeguard the peace and stability of the nation. The State of Emergency will be lifted as soon as the threats posed to national security are addressed satisfactorily.”
India’s warning, which came hours before the majlis approval, is reminiscent of the 2015 warning India had issued to Nepal on their constitution, which had triggered a whole set of actions.
In the case of Maldives, the trigger may have been a photograph of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman meeting the exiled opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was in Bengaluru last week. The picture taken by Nasheed seemed to suggest that India was discussing deep military matters with Nasheed. This came after Maldives protested against a programme on state-owned Rajya Sabha TV where the participants seemed to be in favour of a military intervention by India in Maldives.
In August 2017, India gave a visa to Nasheed out of pique when Yameen refused to stop Chinese warships from entering Male. Nasheed is now using that visa to come in and out of India. However, this is deepening President Yameen’s growing sense of insecurity, which is prompting him to get reckless like extending emergency. Nasheed’s first visit, sources said, directly affected Yameen’s push on the Maldives-China FTA, signed in December 2017, and also pushed through parliament then.
Until recently, India was batting for Maldives at forums like the Commonwealth which castigated Yameen for his undemocratic actions. It was India which cushioned Yameen from that blow. Yameen eventually walked out of the Commonwealth. Until late 2017, India was ready to engage Yameen on his terms, but when Yameen began to seriously engage China in the strategic sectors, India’s red flags went up.
In the current situation, while India and the US have led international concern about his actions, Yameen has his friends — China has declared its support, while both Saudi Arabia and UAE have declined to criticise him.
India has taken some steps against Maldives — refused to allow Chinese-origin mechanised boats of Maldives fishermen to berthe free on the Indian coast, which used to be allowed for traditional fishermen; stopped the supply of aggregates etc to Maldives. After yesterday’s actions, India is looking at more punitive measures against Yameen.
(This article was originally published in The Times of India)