India was the first stop planned for a visit by special envoys of the Maldivian president but was told by New Delhi that Indian leaders were not available for a briefing from President Abdulla Yameen’s emissary on the crisis in the tiny island nation.
“We made a request yesterday that a special envoy of president will be visiting with his delegation today (Thursday) and requested for a meeting with the External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj),” Ahmed Mohamed, Maldives Ambassador to India said.
Since Ms Swaraj is currently out of India on a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Mohamed told NDTV that Maldives government had also offered that the special envoy meet with either of the two ministers of state in the foreign ministry. “We said… that is fine with us,” he said.
But the meeting could not be scheduled and President Yameen, who appears to have gained the upper hand in a bitter power struggle, announced his decision to send envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia instead.
“We are hurt… We were reaching out,” he told NDTV.
The envoys were mandated to update “friendly” countries about the situation on the ground in Maldives.
Maldives, best known for luxury tourist resorts, plunged into crisis last week after President Yameen refused to comply with a five-judge verdict of the Supreme Court quashing terrorism convictions against nine leading opposition figures including the exiled former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed. It was seen to pave the way for the return of Mr Nasheed, who was the country’s first democratically elected president.
Instead, Mr Yameen imposed a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of two of the five judges along former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition.
India’s only statement issued on Tuesday called the government’s refusal to abide by the Supreme Court verdict and the imposition of emergency “disturbing”. New Delhi did not refer to former President Nasheed’s appeals that sought military intervention but expressed “concern” at the arrest of the Supreme Court’s two top judges.
Before Maldives reached out to India with the request for a visit on Wednesday, the police charged the two arrested judges and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with bribery and trying to overthrow the government.
India’s suggestion to defer the special envoy’s visit came against this backdrop, designed to drive home the message that President Yameen had not taken any “real action” on the concerns flagged by India and the international community.
Also, sources told NDTV that Maldives did not outline the purpose of sending the special envoy.
“Democratic institutions and the judiciary continue to be undermined and concerns ignored, these issues need to be properly addressed,” sources said, a hint that a briefing under these circumstances would not really have served a purpose unlike Maldives was willing to take the right steps.
Maldives Ambassador referred to the concern expressed by New Delhi in his interview to NDTV.
“That (expressing concern) is more reason why we should be reaching out to India… coming here and meet the senior officials and explain to them the situation,” Mr Mohamed told NDTV. Along with expressing concern, he said, India should also engage with Maldives and “know better what is the situation”.
On the arrests of the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Mr Mohamed said no one was above the law. “We should continue to follow the rule of law,” he said.