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NEW DELHI: India is working with its international partners to ask United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to Maldives so that impartial observers can assess the situation on the ground and nudge the Abdulla Yameen government into restoring democracy.
The move is part of hectic back-channel maneuvers New Delhi is currently engaged in to exercise diplomatic options to deal with the crisis in the island nation following President Yameen’s decision to impose an emergency and place the supreme court chief justice under arrest.
The situation in Maldives came up for discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump early this morning. Sources on condition of anonymity said most countries are looking to India to take a lead in dealing with the problems in Maldives given its proximity and ability to influence events in the archipelago.
“Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law,” the White House said in a readout of the phone call between Trump and Modi, the first this year. Given Yameen’s proximity to China which has invested heavily in his regime, the India-US convergence is significant.
At the moment, India is exploring “diplomatic options” to get Yameen to see sense. However, high-level sources said all options remain on the table if normalcy was not restored in keeping with international opinion.
India earlier refused a request from Maldives to send a special envoy, foreign minister Mohammed Asim who had travelled to Abu Dhabi expecting to board a plane for New Delhi. After India’s snub, Asim went on to Islamabad. There is almost no likelihood that India will recieve any special envoy from the Yameen government in the near future.
On Friday, Maldives asked China to provide “security” for its investment in Maldives, a thinly veiled request for troops. China refused. In a statement, India said “We note that China has said that Maldives government has the ability to protect the security of Chinese personnel and institutions in Maldives. We hope that all countries can play a constructive role in Maldives, instead of doing the opposite”.
Over the past few days, international voices calling for Yameen to return to some sort of democratic rule are increasing despite China, Yameen’s primary backer, calling for dialogue between political parties in Maldives.
On Thursday, Yameen refused 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”.