After Maldives President Abdulla Yameen told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the weekend that his government will not tolerate foreign interference in domestic issues, a red-faced New Delhi said on Tuesday that the message was for “a larger audience” and “not for India only”.
While South Block’s explanation of Yameen’s straight talk did not hold water, Maldives’ Vice-President Ahmed Adheeb left for China Tuesday to attend a conference on “Maritime Silk Road” and the inauguration of the 2nd Maldives Investment Forum. It may be recalled that when Chinese President Xi Jinping had lobbied for the Maritime Silk Road during his Maldives visit in September last year, the Yameen Abdulla government had agreed to be part of it.
Sources said Yameen’s statements were directed at the UN and the Commonwealth, which have taken a tough stance on former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment.
Yameen, in a statement issued by his office, had clearly stated that his government “will not tolerate foreign parties to interfere with the country’s domestic issues” and underscored that a country’s “integrity and national sovereignty must be respected by all”. “He also stated that every country must be able to practice their democracy without foreign influence,” the statement had said.
However, sources among Indian officials privy to the conversation between Swaraj and Yameen claimed the remarks were also directed at the UN report on Nasheed’s “illegal detention”. Recently, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Nasheed’s imprisonment was “arbitrary”.
In a bid to balance out, official sources said India had to meet the second seniormost leader in Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party since the former President was not available.
PM Modi cancelled his visit to Maldives in March over Nasheed’s detention. Officials, however, said the situation is not the same now. New Delhi’s decision to re-engage is shaped by recent developments including the new Maldives land law which allows Chinese firms to buy land in islands.