New Delhi: India on Thursday extended a guarded welcome to the revocation of the state of emergency in the Maldives earlier this week.
“While this is one step towards addressing the issues related to the prevailing political situation in that country, a number of concerns expressed by the international community still remain to be addressed," a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.
New Delhi, however, called on the Maldives government of President Abdulla Yameen to allow the Supreme Court and other branches of the judiciary to “operate in full independence, to promote and support the free and proper functioning of parliament" and to implement the Supreme Court’s 1 February order that calls for the release of nine opposition members of Parliament (MPs) who were charged with treason.
India also called for a “genuine political dialogue with all opposition parties", adding that it was “important for the Government of the Maldives to ensure credible restoration of the political process, as well as the rule of law, before the elections are announced this year."
“As a neighbour whose security is closely intertwined with that of the Maldives, India wishes to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives that meets the aspiration of its citizens."
The Indian Ocean atoll nation has been in political turmoil since 1 February when the Yameen government refused to obey the court order to release the nine opposition MPs. The government imposed emergency on 5 February for 15 days as it took into custody former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
India, the largest country in the region, has been careful with its comments in a bid to ensure that the Yameen government was not antagonised. According to the thinking in New Delhi, alienating Yameen would only send the Maldives deeper into the Chinese orbit.
It has traditionally viewed the Maldives as within its sphere of influence but has warily watched a steady rise in Chinese sway in the atoll nation.
China which opened an embassy in the Maldives in 2011, has made large scale investments in key infrastructure projects in the Maldives.
In December, the Maldives and China signed a Free Trade Agreement that allows both countries to waive tariffs on more than 95% of goods imported by both sides, along with a commitment to open services markets in finance, healthcare and tourism. India viewed this as a move that allows Chinese goods to enter India through the back door.
Another maritime cooperation pact between China and the Maldives also raised hackles in India given its potential to jeopardize India’s security interests.
On 20 February, the Yameen government extended the emergency by a month with India expressing “deep dismay" at the move. But New Delhi refused to entertain a special envoy from the Maldives last month.