New Delhi: India on Tuesday issued a subtle warning to the Maldives not to extend a state of emergency, urging it to restore democracy amid reports that President Abdulla Yameen was planning to keep emergency provisions in place for another month.
India’s warning came as a crucial meeting of the Maldives Parliament approved the extension of the emergency by 30 days as sought by the atoll nation’s president, a Reuters report said. It was a development the Indian government was keeping a close eye on.
A Reuters news report on Tuesday said 11 Chinese warships had sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, amid the constitutional crisis in the strategically located nation. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army also posted photos on rescue training exercises taking place in the East Indian Ocean on its official Twitter-like Weibo account, the report said. The Indian Navy has said it has not noticed any activity in Indian territorial waters or exclusive economic zone.
The Maldives has been under a state of emergency since 5 February after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the freeing of nine opposition lawmakers including former president Mohamed Nasheed after overturning charges of terrorism against them.
Yameen has detained a number of key people including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the chief justice of the Supreme Court besides sacking the police chief of Male.
“The State of Emergency declared in Maldives on 5 February 2018 comes to an end this (Tuesday) evening. It is our expectation that the Government of Maldives will not be seeking extension of the State of Emergency so that the political process in Maldives can resume with immediate effect," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“After the revocation of the Emergency, democratic institutions including the judiciary should be allowed to function independently and in a fair and transparent manner in accordance with the Constitution. The order issued by the Supreme Court of Maldives on 1 February 2018 should be implemented in letter and spirit," it said.
“It is important that Maldives quickly returns to the path of democracy and the rule of law so that the aspirations of Maldivian people are met and the concerns of the international community are assuaged," it added.
New Delhi has traditionally viewed the Maldives as within its sphere of influence but has warily watched a steady rise in Chinese influence.
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. Yameen’s special envoy, foreign minister Mohamed Asim visited New Delhi last month but was not able to assuage Indian concerns.