Yameen cites Kashmir, tells India to back off
In a clear snub to India’s efforts to get the Abdulla Yameen government to lift emergency and restore democratic functioning, Maldives on Tuesday asked New Delhi to stay away from its “internal matter” just as the island nation will not preach on the Kashmir issue.
The provocative reference to Kashmir seems intended to drive home the point that Yameen will continue to keep opposition leaders out of the political field and signals defiance against India’s efforts to get him to release arrested leaders like Mohammed Nasheed, Abdul Gayoom and Supreme Court two judges.
After facilitating the entry of the first set of foreign journalists since the declaration of emergency on February 5, Yameen assigned eight of his cabinet members to urge India not to back Nasheed’s “efforts to destabilise the Maldives and spoil its relationship with India.”
“Why haven’t we gone into the Kashmir issue … and asked to be (an) intermediary? Because they are internal matters … India should stay away from our issue. We are independent and capable of dealing with the situation. If we need help, we will let India know,” said minister of fisheries and agriculture Mohamed Shainee.
Ministers said Maldives will continue its ‘India first’ policy and remain a friend.
The public defiance of Yameen’s ministers further complicate the situation for India, given the widespread impression that the Maldivian government is counting on backing from China, which asked outside powers to stay away from the situation.
Any military intervention is bound to deliver a blow to tourism trade that is already suffering and will seriously impact the livelihood of a large number of Maldivians. As of now, there is no disruption of international travel to and from Maldives.
Yameen, who had sent feelers that he might meet Indian journalists, did not show up. Instead, eight ministers argued that the Maldives Supreme Court order on February 1 asking for the release of the exiled Nasheed and eight others was “a coup of the judiciary.” The ministers said the Yameen government was trying to resolve the political crisis by bringing all parties to the negotiation, but the opposition was not yielding.
He said the government had kept the UN and the EU posted on its negotiation efforts. “A third party is willing to negotiate on the issue,” the minister said, refusing to specify if it was an international body or a country. “It is neither China nor India.” Asked about China’s big brother role, Shainee said: “India, not China, is the big brother in the region. And we will continue our India-first policy.”
The unequivocal message was that the Maldivian government would not allow Nasheed to fight the presidential election this year. “By his own admission, Nasheed has abducted a judge and that is a crime that makes him ineligible to contest,” said Shakoor.
Asked about the recurring constitutional crises in the country, the legal affairs minister said the Yameen government had commissioned a Singapore academic to review the constitution of the country. “This crisis has nothing to do with the constitution—it has everything to do with some people’s unconstitutional actions,” she said.
Shakoor said the emergency, once extended, may be allowed to expire on March 22.
By Arun Ram