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NEW DELHI: India refused a request by Maldives government to send a special envoy to the country in the middle of the
ongoing unrest in the island nation+
that has drawn huge international criticism.
The Yameen Abdul Gayoom government on Thursday announced that it had sent special envoys to three “friendly countries” — China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as the unrest deepened in Maldives.
Questioned about the absence of India in the list, Maldives envoy Ahmed Mohamed told TOI, “India was in fact the first stop planned and proposed for a visit of a special envoy of the President of Maldives. We asked for a visit on February 8. However, the dates proposed was not suitable for the Indian leadership.”
A statement from the Maldives embassy here said, “The first stop of special envoy of the President was India. Foreign Minister of Maldives Dr. Mohamed Asim, the designated Special envoy of the President was scheduled for 8th February 2018, to India but the visit was cancelled on the request of the Government of India.”
Sources in the Indian government confirmed that a request for a special envoy’s visit was made on February 7. “With external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi Modi leaving for a 3-nation tour, we had scheduling difficulties.”
Behind the refusal, though is more than matching dates — there is a growing anger at the subversion of governance norms and rules in Maldives by President Yameen.
India, sources said, has “not seen any real action on the concerns stated by the international community and India. Democratic institutions and the Judiciary continue to be undermined and concerns ignored, these issues need to be properly addressed.”
On Wednesday, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Adel Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, held a one-on-one conversation in Riyadh where she is visiting — sources said, Maldives was discussed in detail by the two leaders. Sushma also met the Saudi King Salman where “regional issues” also came up for discussion, sources said.
Meanwhile, France added its voice to the international criticism of Yameen’s actions. In a statement, the French foreign ministry said, “France is concerned by the suspension of public freedoms and by the arrests that took place following the declaration of the state of emergency in the Maldives. We call for a swift return to the normal functioning of the institutions and for respect for the rule of law.”
The international voices calling for Yameen to return to some sort of democratic rule is increasing despite China, Yameen’s primary backer, calling for dialogue between political parties in Maldives.
China continued to take a soft line on Maldives, warning against foreign intervention. When asked to comment on Nasheed’s call to India, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “The international community should play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the Maldives’ sovereignty instead of taking measures that could complicate the current situation.” But this statement also highlighted China’s own concern that things were deteriorating rapidly in Maldives.
Reports from Male said President Yameen refused Thursday to meet senior European diplomats who were the first foreign dignitaries to visit the troubled nation since his crackdown. Envoys from the European Union, Germany and Britain arrived in Male. German Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jorn Rohde, said the trio requested meetings to discuss Yameen’s crackdown. “Sadly the Maldivian government refuses dialogue today with my UK/EU colleagues … Our requests were unfortunately refused,” Rohde said on Twitter. “That is surely not the way forward.”
“The Maldives have seen in recent years attacks on political opponents, on journalists, on civil society and human right defenders, and what is happening now is tantamount to an all-out assault on democracy,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday, adding to the pressure.
On Wednesday, the international commission of jurists condemned the arrest of Supreme Court judges — “President Yameen and his Government have dealt a grave blow to the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in the Maldives,” said Ian Seiderman, ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director. “The actions by the government are a wildly unjustifiable and disproportionate response to the decision of the Supreme Court”, he added. Meanwhile, reported from Male say, Yameen arrested the family members of one of the judges, Ali Hameed and his home searched.
Singapore joined the list of countries to issue travel advisories cautioning their citizens from traveling to the Maldives. Reacting to a spate of travel advisories though, Yameen’s office stated today that despite the emergency, hotels and tourist resorts would function as usual.