Diplomacy Opinion Politics

Restricting Movement, Maldives Makes Indian Envoy A Caged Parrot

Indian Ambassador to the Maldives Akhilesh Mishra

It’s confirmed now – the government of Maldives, headed by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has restricted the movements of Indian High Commissioner in Maldives, Akhilesh Mishra.

Maldives’ Local Government Authority had issued an order on 11 December, saying that “all” foreign diplomats posted in the Maldives would henceforth require a prior approval of the home ministry before meeting any Maldivian official. The new diktat also includes government servants, parliamentarians and local councillors in its scope and ambit.

The LGA circular said it had seen an increase in councillors meeting foreign diplomats and officials from international organisations, noted that all powers relating to foreign policy were vested in the presidency by the constitution, and ordered councillors to seek written permission for such meetings from the home ministry through the LGA.

Here is a copy of the two-pronged LGA order in Dwivehi tweeted by Fuad, one of the three Maldivian councillors who was suspended for meeting Indian envoy Akhilesh Mishra on 11 December.

When this order was passed, Akhilesh Mishra was touring the Gaafu Alifu Atoll and had already begun his meeting with the three councillors, all from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The three councillors were immediately suspended.

Interestingly, the British ambassador to the Maldives, James Dauris, was also visiting the country and was holding a meeting with another group of councillors in Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, but those councillors were never suspended and no action was taken against them.

Phone Lines of Indian Diplomats Compromised

Even more brazen is yet another provocative act by the Yameen government. It has passed an oral order instructing all officials, ministers, bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) not to meet Akhilesh Mishra. This has severely restricted the movements of the Indian envoy and has made him virtually a caged parrot.

Another dismal development is that all landline phones of the Indian embassy in Male and mobile phones of all Indian diplomats, including Mishra, have been compromised. This is something unprecedented. No Maldivian government has dared to do this to India ever before.

In sharp contrast, there is no check on the movements of the Chinese envoy in Male. On the other hand, the Maldivian government is itself facilitating the Chinese envoy with all meetings and rolling out red carpet for him.

Maldives Lacks Interest from Other Foreign Envoys

There are no other foreign envoys who are interested in the Maldives. The Pakistani envoy is on the verge of completing his tenure in the Maldives. In any case, Pakistan has virtually not much presence in the Maldives. Same is the case with Saudi Arabia, with whom the Yameen government has become extremely close. The Saudi envoy visits the Maldives barely for a few days in a year and the Saudi embassy in Male is being run by their First Secretary.

Government sources, however, declined any knowledge of these developments, and described as “incorrect” the impression that the Indian envoy in Maldives is a “caged parrot”.

India has thus far refrained from any hawkish response with regard to developments in the Maldives. However, this situation cannot go for very long and India can’t treat this as a usual business anymore. The Yameen government has crossed all limits and is playing a dangerous game if belittling India, enlarging Chinese strategic footprints in the Maldives and created an India-versus-China situation in this hugely strategically important Indian Ocean country which also happens to be a member of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).

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