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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2786

Maldives says Indian behavior hurts!

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

Maldives has voiced its 'hurt' at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not visiting the island nation during his recent trip to the Indian Ocean region even as it sought to allay India's concerns over the imprisonment of former President Mohammed Nasheed.

Reacting to the response of international community, including India, which expressed "deep concern" over Nasheed's conviction under anti-terror law and 13-year jail sentence, Maldives government said, "It is as per law and purely a domestic issue."

Fathimath Inaya, Deputy Minister in Maldivian Foreign Ministry, told PTI that her country is puzzled with Indian PM ignoring Maldives during his first ever trip the sea zone. "We do understand India's concerns. It is natural to be concerned if something is happening in your neighborhood, especially given Modi's neighborhood first approach," here.

She also reiterated her President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's remarks that Maldives wanted to engage constructively with its international partners, based on mutual respect and dialogue, in consolidating and strengthening democratic values and institutions in the country, implying that it will not like any interference in the matter.

Asked by the media persons about PM Modi choosing not to visit Maldives during his recent visit to the countries in the region, she said, "We had extensive discussions with Indian side for a possible visit by Prime Minister Modi but we were told that environment was not conducive for his visit."

"We are hurt that the Prime Minister could not visit this time," the minister added.

Admitting that there was no intervention from any country, including India, the deputy minister said, "No country has intervened. Our government has maintained that it is a domestic judicial process, so we do not foresee any country coming into intervening in what is essentially a domestic issue in Maldives."

In the Maldivian political context perhaps the two warring forces – Nasheed and Yameen – remain as irreconcilable as ever. But the hard fact is that the Indian diplomacy in Maldives has failed to melt the ice between the two protagonists. In other words, India has been unable to engineer a breakthrough in the past.

On March 16, Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon who was in Colombo, had said, "I have consistently said that India respects our sovereignty and our independence. While on the basis of the friendship, we can discuss concerns and have a dialogue. But I don't think India or any other country would be giving us directions...on a particular matter."

Admitting that India-Maldives ties have witnessed "many ups and downs" in last few years, Inaya accused Nasheed of causing "political embarrassment" to both countries and cited the example when the former Maldivian President had taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Male to avoid being arrested in connection with the same case in February 2013. She also pressed an "alarm" button on the misconceptions revolving around Nasheed's case among the international community, saying Maldives was trying to clarify the same. "Nasheed has a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal, should he choose to do so, in line with Maldivian laws, contrary to what his party and supporters are telling everyone," she said.

Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader who was arrested on February 22 over the detention of a judge in 2012, was charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1990. The Anti-Terrorism Act, inter alia, classifies an act of terrorism to include kidnapping, holding as hostage or apprehending someone against their will or attempts to kidnap, hold hostage or apprehend someone without their will, for the extrajudicial enforced disappearance of the sitting Chief Judge of Criminal Court," the sources said, quoting the court judgment.

47-year-old Nasheed resigned as the Maldives' leader in February 2012 after a mutiny by police and troops that followed weeks of protests over the arrest of Judge Abdullah Mohamed on corruption allegations.

Criminal charges in the country are brought by the Prosecutor General of the Maldives as per the Article 220(a) of the Constitution of Maldives. The Prosecutor General's case was based on the investigation report of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives into the kidnaping of the Judge.

Nasheed had taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Male to avoid being arrested in connection with the same case in February 2013. He claimed that he was forced to quit in February 2012 after soldiers and police mutinied and overran his party's headquarters in the capital Male. However his successor, Mohamed Waheed, who had been serving as vice-president, had said Nasheed left of his own accord. Waheed lost the controversial November 2013 presidential election to Yameen, the half-brother of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Besides India, the USA, the EU and several human rights groups have raised concerns over the judicial procedure in Maldives and sentencing of Nasheed. The 47-year-old Nasheed was arrested on February 22 under terror charges for the controversial military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed in 2012. India had expressed concerned over the developments in the Maldives, including the "arrest and manhandling" of Nasheed, and asked all the involved to resolve their differences within the constitutional framework.

The minister also pointed out that the probe into the present case had started in 2012 and the Prosecutor General's case was based on the investigation report of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives into the kidnapping of the judge.

Last week, the criminal court had found Nasheed guilty of the charges pressed against him and had handed down a 13-year jail term to him. The terrorism conviction effectively bars Nasheed from presidential elections in 2018.

Nasheed has a constitutional right of appeal to the High Court of Maldives.

Maldives government still feels India should not have cancelled its scheduled trip to Maldives, giving an impression that PM Modi deliberately avoids Muslim nations as he has not yet visited any Muslim nation, while South Asia has four Muslim countries viz Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. It seems PM Modi has chosen only those South Asian countries, starting with Bhutan, are non-Muslim and also possibly “manageable” to some extent.

- Asian Tribune -

Former President Nasheed being severely harasses and dragged by the Police (File Photo)
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