The MEA gave no explanation, but sources said the government did not want to be seen “involved in domestic issues” of the Maldives.
Amidst tensions in the Maldives over the arrest of former President Mohammad Nasheed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to drop his visit to Male that was to have been a part of his four-nation ocean island foray including Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Seychelles next week.
According to a Ministry of External Affairs release, the PM will fly to the Seychelles on March 11, followed by Mauritius, where he will be the chief guest at the National Day celebrations and then he will leave for a two-day visit to Sri Lanka.
“The Indian PM’s visit has been postponed on mutual agreement to give more time for both the governments to prepare more. New dates will be announced later,” said a statement by the Maldivian foreign Ministry in Friday.
The MEA gave no explanation for the decision to cancel Mr. Modi’s visit at this point, but sources said the government did not want to be seen “involved in domestic issues” of the Maldives.
The omission of Maldives is significant because his visit had been announced by the Foreign Minister of Maldives Dunya Maumoon two weeks ago. Mr. Maumoon had also met with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, and reportedly discussed the “upcoming visit” of Mr. Modi.
However, sources said the Indian government was taken by surprise over the treatment of former President Mr. Nasheed, who was arrested and charged with treason, and also roughed up by the police on his way to court, and the MEA had issued a strong statement expressing “concern” over his “arrest and manhandling.”
Despite the concern, the PM’s visit was expected to continue, and local newspapers in Male have been reporting on various investment initiatives and agreements planned by the President Yameen government during the visit.
Mr. Modi’s ‘four-nation Indian Ocean foray’ was expected to bolster India’s relations in the region, and build strategic ties as a possible counter to China’s growing maritime influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping had also visited the Maldives after his visit to India in September 2014. Significantly, Mr. Yameen made a visit to Pakistan last week, and is expected to visit China soon.
The Maldives government hasn’t reacted to the announcement from the MEA this morning. However the opposition groups led by Mr. Nasheed’s MDP said that Mr. Modi’s decision was caused by the strain in India’s relations with the Maldives, because of what it called “the authoritarian actions and confrontational nature of President Yameen.”
“India has been our closest friend and we hope that the Yameen government takes swift action to restore the Maldives-India relationship,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MDP spokesperson told.