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Dunya Maumoon. Photo: Reuters
Dunya Maumoon. Photo: Reuters

Maldives foreign minister to brief Swaraj on domestic developments

Dunya Maumoon is expected to brief Swaraj on recent emergency measures imposed in the country earlier this month

New Delhi: Maldivian foreign minister Dunya Maumoon is expected in New Delhi on Saturday.

She will hold talks with her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj that will focus on the internal political developments of the island nation.

Maumoon, daughter of former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for three decades till 2008, is expected to brief Swaraj on the recent emergency measures imposed in the country earlier this month, citing threats to citizens’ safety and national security.

The emergency was imposed on 4 November and entailed a suspension of all basic rights of citizens and endowing security forces with sweeping powers to arrest suspects before a major anti-government rally organized by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic party (MDP).

The MDP’s leader and former president, Mohamed Nasheed, is in jail following his conviction earlier this year under anti-terror laws.

The emergency provisions were lifted on 10 November.

Late last month, the Maldivian government detained vice-president Ahmed Adeeb in connection with an alleged assassination attempt on President Abdullah Yameen in September. Adeeb came to office after the previous vice-president, Mohammed Jameel Ahmed, who held the post between 2013 and 2015, was sacked by Yameen, also on charges of treason.

India, which has had rocky ties with the Maldives over the detention of former president Mohammed Nasheed, did not react to the action against Adeeb. It also did not react to the imposition of emergency in the Maldives.

The government has been concerned about Yameen’s perceived tilt toward China in the past year, with the Maldives signing up for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Maritime Silk Route initiative during a visit to Male by Xi in September last year.

The passage of a controversial land acquisition law by Parliament that allowed foreigners who invested more than $1 billion to own land in perpetuity, provided 70% of it is reclaimed from the Indian Ocean, also cast a shadow over relations with India.

“Following up on neighbourhood engagement. Soon after EAM @SushmaSwaraj’s visit to Maldives, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon set to visit India on 21-22 November," Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the foreign ministry, tweeted.

The reference was to Swaraj’s visit to the Maldives last month for the fifth joint commission meeting that took place after a gap of 15 years.

Swaraj also called on Yameen during the visit. A statement issued by the Maldivian presidency after the Swaraj-Yameen talks stated that the Maldives would not tolerate in interference of “foreign parties" in its domestic issues. The remarks were played down by India and the Maldivian high commissioner in New Delhi, Ahmed Mohamed, who said the comments were not aimed at India but mainly countries and organizations who had criticized Yameen’s actions.

An Indian statement issued at the end of Swaraj’s visit pointed at renewed engagement between the two countries, with further measures to increase trade in goods and services and strengthen links in the banking and financial sectors of both countries. The Maldivian side reiterated its interest in engaging with private investors in India for key projects in the Maldives.

Tourism, fisheries, education, information technology, infrastructure development and energy cooperation were identified as areas for future cooperation, the statement said.

Another key area of cooperation discussed was defence and security, which was “part of the forward-looking discussions in the joint commission for the first time". it said.

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