Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon called on her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Saturday amidst continuing scrutiny on the Maldives following fresh political turmoil.
The two day visit, aimed at “strengthening bilateral ties,” comes ahead of a crucial Commonwealth heads of government meeting later this month, and follows a joint statement by the Prime Ministers of UK and India, emphasizing the importance of “a stable and inclusive democracy in the Maldives, including an independent judiciary.”
The Maldives was plunged into fresh political turmoil when a minor blast rocked President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat in September. His deputy has been arrested on suspicion of masterminding the alleged bomb attack, and the defence minister and police chief have been sacked in a shakeup of the security forces.
Yameen also declared an unprecedented nationwide emergency in November, citing fear of imminent attacks.
The opposition meanwhile is protesting over the government’s refusal to release former President Mohamed Nasheed, as recommended by a UN human rights panel.
Nasheed was jailed for 13 years in March on a terrorism charge.
Though Nasheed’s imprisonment soured relations between Maldives and India, things appear to be picking up now. In early October, Swaraj visited the Maldives to review bilateral aid and made new commitments.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta on November 25, India is expected to become a member of the Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
According to the UK government, Prime Minister David Cameron met with the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma urging him to use the CHOGM and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s meetings to “highlight the situation in the Maldives and to support the process of restoring democracy and the rule of law.”
A team from the Commonwealth Secretariat was in Malé last week.
The Maldives narrowly avoided being placed on the CMAG’s agenda earlier this year when the government began talks with the opposition.
The talks collapsed later when Yameen refused to release Nasheed as expected.
Speaking briefly with the Indian media yesterday, Dunya said: “I came largely to personally apprise about the emergency and other developments leading to the emergency.”
Yameen had cited fear of imminent threats in declaring the state of emergency for 30 days. The move sparked a storm of criticism, with an unprecedented statement from Sri Lanka warning the Maldives against regional instability.
The leader of India’s ruling BJP, Subramaniam Swamy, has called on Modi to send a special envoy to Maldives to secure Nasheed’s release. He described Nasheed’s trial as “politically biased, inadequate and subject to external influence.”