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Severing ties with Iran risks Indian Ocean stability, says opposition

The Maldives opposition has slammed the government’s decision to sever its 40-year-old diplomatic ties with Iran as “irrational adventurism” that may destabilise the Indian Ocean.



The Maldives’ decision to sever its 40-year-old diplomatic ties with Iran is “irrational adventurism” that could destabilise the Indian Ocean, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has said.

President Abdulla Yameen has put Saudi Arabia’s interests ahead of India’s, despite reiterating an India-first policy during a visit to New Delhi in April, other critics added.

Saudi Arabia, a major donor to the Maldives, cut off ties with Iran in January, after Iranian protesters stormed it’s embassy in Tehran over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

The Maldives foreign ministry on Tuesday claimed Iran’s policies in the Middle East are detrimental to peace and security in the region.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, in a Twitter post, said the decision “brings contentious issues to our region, risking Indian Ocean stability.” It was “an additional disservice to Maldivians” by the Yameen administration, he said.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, ex foreign minister and UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said: “This decision did not take into consideration the Maldives’ interests or the security of the SAARC and South Asia. It was done to please or appease one particular country, Saudi Arabia.”

Iran is the only UN member state the Maldives has cut off relations with.

Shaheed highlighted that the Maldives had also abstained in a UN human rights council vote to extend his rights monitoring mandate in Iran.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, expressing concern, added that the drastic shift in foreign policy was not “adequately deliberated by relevant state institutions.”

Others said Maldives’ call on Iran to respect recommendations by the Organisation of Islamic States amounted to hypocrisy when it rejected calls by the UN and Commonwealth to free jailed opposition politicians, including Nasheed, who is currently in the UK on medical leave from prison.

The Maldives foreign ministry had said: “The Islamic Summit held last month in Turkey called on Iran to pursue a policy based on the principle of ‘good neighbourliness, non-interference in their domestic affairs, respect for their independence and territorial sovereignty, [and] resolving differences by peaceful means in accordance with OIC and the UN Charters.’

“The Maldives calls on Iran to show more commitment and tangible results in implementing the recommendations of the OIC.”

Since assuming office in November 2013, Yameen has fostered closer ties with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia established a diplomatic mission in the Maldives for the first time in August.

The kingdom granted US$20 million for budget support last year, and agreed to provide a US$80 million loan for the development of a an urban centre on the artificial island of Hulhumalé. It recently pledged US$50million for a housing project for the Maldives military.

The Yameen administration is also seeking US$100million from the kingdom for an airport development project.

The Maldives is also among 34 countries that have joined a Saudi-led Islamic military alliance formed to combat terrorist organisations.