PM Modi cancels trip to Maldives: Is it because of Yameen govt's rebuttal in Nasheed case?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cancellation of his Maldives visit in many ways is a danger signal for India.

Rajeev Sharma March 07, 2015 12:40:20 IST
PM Modi cancels trip to Maldives: Is it because of Yameen govt's rebuttal in Nasheed case?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cancellation of his Maldives visit in many ways is a danger signal for India.

PM Modi’s purported Maldives visit had been under cloud since 22 February when former President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested under terrorism charges. The fact that Nasheed continues to be under arrest till date shows that India has failed to persuade the government of

PM Modi cancels trip to Maldives Is it because of Yameen govts rebuttal in Nasheed case

A file photo of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

to release him and start a process of national reconciliation.

This is India’s failing. India gave the Yameen government a long rope. For almost a fortnight New Delhi waited. But Male did not oblige. Perhaps Male did not want to oblige.

Obviously during this past fortnight India tried every trick in the book of diplomacy with the Yameen government.

In the Maldivian political context perhaps the two warring forces – Nasheed and Yameen – remain as irreconcilable as ever. But the hard fact is that the Indian diplomacy in Maldives has failed to melt the ice between the two protagonists. In other words, India has been unable to engineer a breakthrough in the past fortnight.

India had issued a statement a couple of days after Nasheed’s arrest, expressing concern over the development and his manhandling.

But nothing changed. In retrospect, it looks like that nothing was to be changed and the Maldivian government’s actions as well as intentions were cast in stone. The manner in which the former president was made a spectacle and dragged like an ordinary criminal betrayed the real intentions of the Yameen government.

The real test for India awaits now. India’s diplomatic see-saw vis a vis Maldives starts now.

The cancellation of Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Maldives conveys that a chilling fact: that the Maldivian government has opted for taking on India rather than going for the easier option of releasing Nasheed and keeping India in good humour.

The Modi government must understand that the Yameen government has raised the stakes for India by what many in India would call intransigence.

In a way, the Yameen government’s intransigence should come in handy. The fact that the Maldivian former president is under arrest and facing trial for terror charges despite New Delhi’s concerns, expressed overtly and covertly, conveys that the Yameen government has shown its cards.

Now that India knows what the Yameen government will do – and more importantly, what it will not do – the Maldivian diplomatic chessboard is much easier to conquer. One hopes that now the Indian government would have its diplomatic and strategic tasks clearly laid out with all the green and red lines clearly delineated.

The Indian Prime Minister has cancelled his upcoming visit to Maldives only for one reason – Nasheed’s arrest -- and the Maldivian government is not unaware. This goes to show that the Yameen government is willing to absorb the consequences, whatever these may be.

It takes quite a gall to be so courageous. It is difficult to believe that Maldivian government will not do the bidding of New Delhi.

But this is precisely what has happened. This is the bolt from the blue for the Indian government.

Clearly President Yameen is getting encouragement from somewhere in rebuffing India. This is the Maldivian challenge that the Modi government has to respond to.

In many ways, Maldives is seen in conjunction with Sri Lanka. Colombo’s new government has rebuffed China like few countries have done to China ever before. Moreover, the new Sri Lankan government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena has openly followed ‘India First’ policy since it came to power two months ago.

Therefore, the inevitable question is whether the hard line adopted by the Maldives government is because of some external influence? Is China dealing a proxy card in Maldives’ foreign and domestic policies?

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