Diplomacy Politics

Amid Global Calls To End Emergency, Maldives Envoy Makes A Dash For China

China views the Maldives as key to its Maritime Silk Road project in the Indian Ocean (AFP)

New Delhi:  As the Maldives implodes under the weight of a political crisis, an envoy of President Abdulla Yameen has made a quick dash to Beijing amid reports that Indian special forces are preparing for deployment to rescue Indians stranded in the picturesque archipelago.

A statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China believes “the archipelago should return to normalcy in accordance with law”, confirming that the crisis in the Maldives was discussed during the meeting of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Maldivian Finance Minister Mohamed Saeed.

Mr Saeed said the Maldivian government would protect Chinese employees and organisations in the Indian Ocean archipelago if violence flares up.

Even as the Chinese foreign minister was meeting with the Maldivian envoy, China said it respected the principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, news agency IANS reported.

Embattled President Abdulla Yameen, who disobeyed Supreme Court orders to free jailed political opponents, had declared a state of emergency on February 6. He has sent representatives to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, apart from China, to seek support.

India, the US and the United Nations have asked Mr Yameen to end the state of emergency and release two Supreme Court judges who were arrested after they ordered the release of exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed and nine other political prisoners. India has called the Maldivian government’s refusal to abide by the Supreme Court and the imposition of emergency “disturbing” and described the arrest of the judges as a matter of “concern”.

Three days after Mr Nasheed asked India to send an envoy backed by the military to end the crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump also discussed the situation in the Maldives on phone today.

The Indian Navy conducts routine peacetime patrols in the sea lanes near the Maldives during peacetime.

Mr Yameen has drawn close to China and Saudi Arabia during his time in office, with both countries investing heavily in the tiny nation.

Located near key shipping lanes, the Maldives have assumed greater importance to China after it began building political and economic ties as part of its so-called “String Of Pearls” strategy to build a network of ports in the Indian Ocean region. Having historically held more clout in the islands, India has sought to push back against China’s growing influence there.

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