New foreign minister reiterates India first policy in visit to New Delhi

New foreign minister reiterates India first policy in visit to New Delhi
August 17 10:00 2016

Foreign Minister Dr. Mohamed Asim reiterated the Maldives’ India- first policy in a meeting with his counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, in a visit to New Delhi, his first overseas trip since his appointment.

Asim, who took up the foreign affairs portfolio in June, briefed Swaraj on recent political developments in Male, and the government’s engagement with the United Nations and the Commonwealth’s special envoy, a spokesperson told the Business Standard.

President Abdulla Yameen is facing international pressure over human rights abuses and the jailing of opposition leaders.

India sits on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, which has threatened to take action against the Maldives over authoritarian reversals.

The intergovernmental body has urged Yameen to engage in dialogue with the opposition and end a prolonged political crisis that began in February last year, following the arrest and jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The CMAG is due to meet in New York in late September. It will review the Maldives’ progress on a six-point reform agenda, including the release of jailed opposition figures, ensuring separation of powers and judicial independence.

Yameen has previously thanked India and Pakistan for helping the Maldives avoid action by the Commonwealth in March.

India- Maldives ties had soured following Nasheed’s ouster in 2012, and worsened when Yameen went on to foster a closer ties with China.

The president, who came under pressure when the parliament approved foreign freeholds in the Maldives for the first time, raising fears of Chinese-military expansion in the Maldives, declared an India-first foreign policy, and pledged to keep the Indian Ocean demilitarised.

According to the Business Standard, the two foreign ministers on Tuesday spoke on maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and briefed her on preparations for an investment forum to be held in New Delhi later this year.

Asim also met with India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari later in the afternoon.

The former high commissioner to Bangladesh had replaced Dunya Maumoon, daughter of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of the incumbent president.

She quit citing opposition to the government’s plans to introduce the death penalty.