Top Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives

Top Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives
October 05 13:41 2015

Indian External Affairs Minister Shushma Swaraj is scheduled to arrive in the Maldives on October 10 for a two-day visit, The Maldives Independent understands.

Swaraj is the highest-ranking Indian official to visit the Maldives since the political crisis triggered in February by the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on a terrorism charge.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dropped the Maldives from his Indian Ocean tour in March.

India’s Telegraph on Saturday reported Modi “is rushing” Swaraj to the Maldives “amid growing worries over China’s influence.”

The foreign ministry and the Indian High Commission in Malé declined to comment on the visit. However, a foreign ministry official who wished to remain anonymous said “preparations are underway for her visit.”

The Indian High Commission said an official press release would be issued as soon as the visit is confirmed.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon met with Swaraj in New York on September 30 on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly.

In early August, India’s Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar visited the Maldives as part of his “SAARC yatra” tour intended to strengthen relations with South Asian neighbors.

India had been critical of President Abdulla Yameen’s crackdown on opposition leaders, according to Indian media. It had urged the Maldives to strengthen the rule of law during a review of the Maldives’ human rights record at the Human Rights Committee in May.

The Telegraph suggested Swaraj’s trip signals a rethink of a strategy to pressure the Maldives as it strengthens ties with China.

Indian media, echoing the Maldivian opposition, have raised fears that an unprecedented constitutional amendment allowing foreign freeholds in the Maldives will allow China to build bases near India.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper in July, Vice President Ahmed Adeeb dismissed fears of Chinese military expansion in the Maldives as a “political play by the opposition to try and create a problem between the Maldives and India.”

Adeeb last week lauded and pledged the Maldives’ continuing friendship with both India and China at separate functions.