London, Oct 22 (PTI) Mohamed Nasheed, who is planning to return to the Maldives on November 1, has hailed the landmark election outcome with the exiled former president saying the “sun is again shining” on the strategically vital Indian Ocean island nation.
Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, also said there was a cold war brewing between India and China and the Maldives can be a “solution” to it and to South Asia’s security issues.
In an address just before he left his base in London where he was in exile, the founder-member of the recently victorious Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in the country’s presidential polls described India as a “friend” which can help solve a lot of issues for the beleaguered nation.
“There is a cold war brewing between India and China. In my view, Maldives can be part of the solution in the region. An attempt to play one against the other would be silly and very outdated politics,” said Nasheed at an event titled ‘Defending Democracy from Exile: The Maldives Opposition 2012-2018’ at the South Asia Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London last week.
“We occupy the most navigable parts of the Indian Ocean. We are not a small country, we are big ocean state. We are 1,000-km from north to south. Our territory is bigger than Saudi Arabia. We have been traditionally Indian friends,” he said.
Nasheed was jailed for 13 years in March 2015 in the Maldives in a case deemed to be politically-motivated and was granted political asylum in the UK in January 2016 after being allowed to travel there for medical reasons.
He had earlier urged Indian intervention to ensure free and fair elections in the Maldives, which last month resulted in the defeat of outgoing pro-China President Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and threw up a victory, by 58.4 per cent of the vote, for Opposition MDP’s Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
“I didn’t ask for military intervention. I asked for an Indian official backed by its military to go there and sort it out. There are instances when higher officials can go into other countries and speak. That would have solved many issues at that time. It can still solve a lot of issues,” said Nasheed, while welcoming the outcome of the polls.
“The election results were so overwhelming on our side. We all know that when people come out and speak, President Yameen cannot go on. He dropped the catch when he couldn’t fix the election,” he said.
On Monday, Yameen’s party lost a Supreme Court petition calling for the annulment of the September 23 election results.
Nasheed is now preparing to make a return to the Maldives on November 1 and is currently based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before his planned return.
“For me, home is within you. You always carry it in your heart. For the past two years, my home has been here in London. Now, I must take leave. It’s time for me to go home because far away, across the Indian Ocean and over the Maldives, the sun is again shining,” he said.
In February, Yameen jailed the chief justice and another Supreme Court judge after accusing them of trying to topple him.
Yameen had initially suspended the court, parliament and the Constitution and declared a state of emergency when legislators were about to impeach him.
China, which has invested millions of dollars in different projects in the Maldives, is weighing its options in the country as Yameen has been trounced by Solih, widely regarded as a pro-India leader.
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