With the army taking control of the Maldives‘ Parliament, the sound of India’s silence is becoming increasingly unbearable for the unified? Maldivian opposition. In an exclusive interaction with TOI, former president Mohamed Nasheed and top leader of the 4-party joint opposition said that the silence of regional powers will allow the chaos in the archipelago to worsen throwing the region into disarray.
“It is worrying that, even when red lines are crossed, regional powers remain silent and inactive because that can allow the chaos and conflict to spiral out of control,” Nasheed told TOI.
“The Maldives is in full blown political crisis. President Yameen’s troops continue to occupy parliament, forcibly evicting opposition MPs and preventing the legislature from functioning,” he added.
Constrained by strategic objectives, not least the presence of China which is now said to account for 70? per cent of the Maldives’ external debt, India has found it difficult to sound excessively critical of Yameen whose government stands accused of subverting democratic institutions in the country
Ironically, in their attempts to get India to ensure free and fair elections, which are due next year, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and others have often sought to play on India’s fear of growing Chinese influence in Maldives.
“Yameen no longer even pretends to respect the law or the Constitution. He turns a blind eye to Islamic radicalism and entertains partnerships that undermine Indian Ocean stability,” said Nasheed.
The joint opposition is worried that India’s reaction until now has been limited to what it sees as a wishy-washy response to a query on Maldives in a routine Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) briefing. “Maldives is very important neighbour of ours. It is part of SAARC. We attach the highest importance to our relations with Maldives. India wishes to see a stable, prosperous and peaceful Maldives in which aspirations of people of Maldives are fulfilled,” the spokesperson had said in response to a media query.
In stark contrast to India’s silence, countries like US and UK have spoken out against the attempts to impede the functioning of Parliament in the country. Maldives remains the only country in India’s neighbourhood which is yet to see a visit by PM Narendra Modi. The Yameen government had recently invited former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif as chief guest for its Independence Day celebrations. Speaking at a joint press conference, Sharif accused India of undermining the spirit of Saarc as he alluded to India’s decision to force a boycott of the South Asia grouping summit last year in Islamabad. The MDP officially and strongly condemned the “deafening silence” of Yameen while Sharif criticized India and claimed that Pakistan and the Maldives shared similar views on Saarc.
The present crisis in the Maldives was brought about by Yameen’s decision to deploy troops in Parliament, People’s Majlis, in an attempt to deny the Opposition a no-confidence motion it had sought against the Speaker, who is described by the MDP as a Yameen crony.
According to former foreign minister and MDP leader Ahmed Naseem, the Joint Opposition led by 4 political leaders won a majority in Parliament when they submitted on July 3 a no-confidence motion to remove the Speaker of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives [PPM]. The motion, Naseem had said, had been submitted three times earlier too but on this occasion it bore signatures of 45 MPs (who constitute a majority in a house of 85 members). This led to increasing calls from the opposition for Yameen to resign as he seemed to have lost majority in Parliament. The Parliament lockdown came on July 24 just before the Opposition was bring the motion against the Speaker.
The opposition led by MDP has also been very critical of Yameen’s foreign policy saying that the country today is more ostracised than ever before. “President Yameen’s foreign policy — which is largely driven by the President’s pursuit of personal wealth — has damaged the country’s long-standing ties with international partners, and led to the Maldives’ isolation in the international community,” said the party in a statement last week, adding that it was India which came to the Maldives’ assistance and protected its sovereignty during the November 3, 1988 attempted coup.
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