A prominent leader from the ruling party in Maldives, Ahmed Nihan, who is considered to be a close aide to President Abdulla Yameen, was not allowed to enter India earlier this week, prompting Male to raise the issue with New Delhi. This incident comes amid the strain in bilateral ties between India and Maldives over the political situation in the island nation.
Describing the incident which took place Monday night as “unfortunate”, Maldives envoy to India Ahmed Mohamed told The Indian Express, “The Maldives foreign ministry has taken up the matter with Indian ambassador in Male Akhilesh Mishra on Tuesday, while I have raised it with officials in Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi Wednesday.”
Nihan, who is the parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and majority leader of the current parliament, had to come to Chennai for medical consultations on Monday night, but was not allowed to enter the country.
“We have asked for the reason behind him being denied entry into the country. He has been coming here for medical consultations in the past. This time also he came for similar consultations,” Mohamed said.
The Indian government has not responded so far.
When asked whether he had a valid visa for entering the country, the Maldives envoy said that, as a member of parliament, he has a SAARC visa which allows him to freely travel to all SAARC countries.
In Male, Nihan told the local media that he was detained for four hours by the immigration authorities at Chennai International Airport on informing them that he was a member of parliament.
Nihan described the denial of entry as “bullying”. He claimed that he was not allowed to step on Indian soil due to his political affiliations as he was asked to identify which party he belonged to by the immigration officials.
Maldives opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed tweeted that it was “no surprise that a state that has arrested all opposition members, hijacked the parliament. MMA to launder money etc. is not allowed entry.”
The incident comes days after a joint statement by several EU countries, UK, Canada and US expressed concern on May 31 over the “recent deterioration of the situation in the Maldives, especially in relation to the pre-election process”.
Maldives, which is scheduled to hold its presidential elections in September this year, has disqualified all major opposition leaders from contesting the polls.
While India has not commented on the process so far, the Maldives foreign ministry has said that “attempts to undermine the constitution and the laws of the land and to hoodwink the people and hype pre-election political rhetoric cannot be considered as responsible political activities and thus will not have any place in the current political landscape of the country.”
Maldives is the only country in the neighbourhood which has not been visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last four years.