A Maldivian minister on Tuesday asked India to “stay away” from his country’s political crisis, as it is an internal matter just like the Kashmir problem. Maldives does not interfere in India’s internal matters, and India should also trust Maldives to solve its problems on its own, the minister said.

Maldives plunged into political turmoil when on February 5, President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency in defiance of a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners. Two Supreme Court judges and a former president were arrested soon after. India called it unconstitutional, which got a rebuke from Maldives.

“Why haven’t we gone into the Kashmir issue and asked to be an intermediary?” said Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Mohamed Shainee, according to The Times of India. “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.”

Shainee heads the all-party talks in Maldives to resolve the crisis.

Maldives “may be a small country” but is “independent and patriotic”, he said. He said a “third party” has started negotiations to resolve the political crisis in Maldives. He did not say who the “third party” is, except that it is neither India nor China.

He, however, said Male would continue its India First policy. “India, not China, is the big brother in the region,” he said. “India is a very strong country. We will never sound like a threat to India.”

New Delhi’s relations with Male had suffered a setback after the island nation signed a free trade agreement with China in 2017, which prompted India to remind Maldives of its “India First” policy. After India criticised the state of emergency, Chinese state media reacted, saying New Delhi should not interfere in the affairs of the Maldives.

Another Maldivian minister, Aishath Azima Shakoor, said the order by the country’s Supreme Court asking the government to release political prisoners was beyond its powers. Experts from the European Union and Singapore were reviewing the Constitution, The Indian Express quoted her as saying.

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