Days after the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation issued a statement on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly criticising India for continuing restrictions in Jammu & Kashmir, Maldivian parliamentary Speaker and former President Mohammed Nasheed distanced the Maldives from the statement, backing Delhi’s stand on Article 370.
“The Maldives cannot be with the OIC on this issue. None or very few OIC countries are democracies and we don’t think they should be commenting on human rights in India, which is a democracy,” he told The Hindu during a short visit to Delhi.
Mr Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, that came to power in September 2018, has effected a marked improvement in India-Maldives ties in the past year.
“There is nothing for us to comment on, as it has happened through Indian government processes, it is an internal matter for India,” he added, when asked specifically if he would comment on the shutdown and detentions in Kashmir.
When asked if Maldives saw the SAARC process as “dead” given India-Pakistan tensions, Mr Nasheed seemed to diverge from the Indian position, suggesting that Pakistan should still be part of the regional grouping. “If [India doesn’t want to attend SAARC in Pakistan], we could host it in the Maldives, as we have in the past,” he said, adding that even if the SAARC process had died, it didn’t preclude the need for another regional group.
Mr Nasheed was in Delhi to speak at the World Economic Forum India summit. His speech, which focused on China’s investments in the Maldives, which he referred to as more exploitative “than the [British] East India company” sparked strong reactions from the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Zhang Lizhong on Friday. Mr Zhang called the comments “irresponsible” in a series of tweets criticizing Mr Nasheed, and also accused him of trying to play India against China.
“Any attempt to drive a wedge between China and India is futile… developing better relations with China and India simultaneously is in the best interest of the Maldives,” Mr Zhang tweeted.
Mr Nasheed denied that his comments on China were out of line with the Ibu Solih government’s foreign policy, but conceded that despite a year in office the Solih government has shown no signs of revoking Chinese projects. “I do hope the MDP government is not looking for arrangements with China. China must reduce the debt to an actual and factual level, not the inflated prices they have given,” Mr Nasheed said, adding that even the Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement could be stalled by their parliament.
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