Less than 20 hours after embattled Maldives President Abdulla Yameen imposed a “state of emergency” for 15 days, plunging the island nation into deep crisis, India on Tuesday said it was disturbed by the declaration of emergency and termed the arrests of Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as “reasons for concern”.
In a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday evening, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “We are disturbed by the declaration of a state of emergency in Maldives, following the refusal of the government to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full bench of the Supreme Court on February 1, and also by the suspension of constitutional rights of the people of Maldives. The arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures are also reasons for concern.”
It added that the Indian government continues to “carefully monitor” the situation in Maldives.
The statement came hours after former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed asked India to intervene militarily to resolve the political crisis. Appealing for India’s help, Nasheed, who heads the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and is based in Sri Lanka, said: “We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees, including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, from detention and to bring them to their homes. We are asking for a physical presence,” tweeted Nasheed.
Gayoom, who is Yameen’s brother and used to be Nasheed’s rival, has now joined hands with the latter. He was arrested from his residence for plotting against the government.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed, were arrested hours after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on Monday. Yameen accused judges of plotting to overthrow him and said the emergency was imposed to investigate this plot. “We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was,” he said in a televised address to the nation on Monday.
India, which is monitoring the situation very “closely”, had, on Monday, asked its nationals not to undertake non-essential travel to the island nation until further notice.
In a statement, Nasheed said Yameen had illegally declared martial law. “President Yameen’s announcement — which declares a state of emergency, the banning of fundamental freedoms, and the suspension of the Supreme Court — is tantamount to a declaration of martial law in Maldives. This declaration is unconstitutional and illegal. Nobody in Maldives is required to, nor should, follow this unlawful order,” he said.
“We must remove him from power. The people of Maldives have a legitimate request to world governments, especially to India and the United States,” said Nasheed. He also asked the US to ensure that all American financial institutions stop all transactions of the Yameen regime’s leaders.
Nasheed’s appeal notwithstanding, India is examining a host of options. Among the options on the table are: targeted travel ban for top brass of Yameen government, restricting visas for Maldives nationals to India, squeezing aid and trade with the island nation.
“The government has all the options on the table… but what needs to be kept in mind is that we do not want to hurt the people of Maldives. The measures, if any, have to be targeted towards the government. But then what are our good options,” said a top government source.
The US and European partners have consulted India through the night and Tuesday — in Colombo, Washington DC, London, Brussels — to understand the gravity of the situation, and plan the next steps.
The US had earlier said it was “troubled” and “disappointed” by the declaration of emergency by Yameen, and asked him to comply with the rule of law and implement the Supreme Court ruling.
However, China, which sends the highest number of tourists to Maldives, has not issued a strong statement against the Yameen government so far. All eyes are now on Delhi, and other world capitals are waiting for a response.