India was silent Wednesday about barring a senior ruling party politician from entering the country in an unprecedented move, as it was accused of bullying the Maldives.
MP Ahmed Nihan from the Progressive Party of Maldives had travelled to India for medical reasons but was refused entry after enquiries about his diplomatic passport, he told reporters Tuesday night.
“This is bullying,” said Nihan. “If this is the implementation of a policy by neighbouring India, it does not make any sense.”
Relations between the two countries have come under strain in recent years, mostly over China’s influence in the Maldives but also over a controversial 45-day state of emergency imposed by President Abdulla Yameen who alleged there was a plot to overthrow his government.
Nihan was held at Chennai International Airport for four hours before being allowed to leave on a Sri Lankan airlines flight that was bound for Colombo.
He was asked how he got a diplomatic passport. “I told them I am a member of parliament. Then they asked me what party I represented, I said PPM. That is when they told me they had more questions,” Nihan said.
The Maldives ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed told Mihaaru Daily he had submitted an inquiry to the external affairs ministry.
“We have tried to find out why this happened. They have not given any answers,” he said, “especially since this happened to a senior state official it is very disheartening.”
The Indian High Commission in Malé was unavailable for comment.
But Nihan sought to downplay rumours that India’s move was a sanction against the country.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with sanctions. I think this was an attempt to bully me. I want to know if this is something that happened only to me or because I support the government,” Nihan said.
The opposition alliance has previously sought targeted sanctions against senior government officials because of the deteriorating civil and political rights situation in the Maldives.
“Authorities need to find out if India has a list of people barred from entry. Only then will we know not to travel to such a country.
“I don’t know if I am on such a list because immigration [Indian] could not tell me that. We have to check if other countries might be doing this too,” Nihan said.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed said it was unsurprising Nihan had been refused entry, given he was part of a government that jailed opposition leaders, hijacked parliament, pulled apart the Supreme Court and laundered money.
Idhikolhu siyaasee leaderun hayyarukoh, SC roolhaalaa, Majlis hisoarukoh, musthaqilllu muassasathah gadu badu koh, MMA aai BoM medhuverikoh kalhu faisaa dhonna sarukaarehge PG Leader ah India visa nudhinumakee ajaibeh noon pic.twitter.com/4zP6oErO2b
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) June 5, 2018