Politics

US discusses Maldives turmoil with India

Growing Islamist radicalism and the influence of Chinese investments were other key talking points

Amidst growing political turmoil in Male, a team of U.S. diplomats met senior MEA officials to discuss the events in the Maldives on Thursday. The team, led by U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Atul Keshap, shared their concerns about the political situation with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, and spoke about development cooperation in Sri Lanka, The Hindu has learnt.

Among the concerns on the Maldives was the crackdown by the government on Opposition leaders, most of whom, like former President Mohammad Nasheed are in exile facing prison terms, or like former President Gayoom’s son Faris Maumoon, are under arrest. The American diplomats also said the action in Parliament in August, where the Army was called in to stop lawmakers from passing an impeachment motion against the Speaker of the assembly, was “very discouraging”.

Asked about the concerns from the U.S. that called the parliament action “disturbing and unfortunate” in a public statement, Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said the allegations that the Yameen government was undemocratic were “sensational” and represented a “western double standard”. “We have said other countries must not be prescriptive or interfere in our affairs,” Mr. Mohamed told The Hindu in Delhi.

The growth of Islamist radicalism was another area of concern discussed, given the fall of IS would send foreign fighters back to their countries of origin. About 200 Maldivians are estimated to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, and the Maldives, with a population of just 4 lakhs, is believed to be among the countries worst impacted by IS radicalisation.

China factor

The U.S. diplomats also brought up the growing influence of Chinese investment, as well as its maritime presence, with the China-Maldives “friendship bridge” from Male to Hulhumale, an island being developed by Chinese companies, becoming the focus of their attention. The MEA refused to comment about whether India shared the concerns the U.S. team expressed, but a senior official confirmed the meetings in Delhi this week.

While India has not made any public statements on the situation in the Maldives in the recent past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who cancelled his visit to Male abruptly in March 2015, has not yet rescheduled the visit, indicating that tensions between the two countries still prevail. In August, days after the parliament crisis, former President Nasheed visited India and met officials here, seen as a signal of India’s displeasure to Male.

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