Maldivian top court had ordered all political prisoners there to be let off.
New Delhi: In a clear political message to tiny maritime neighbour the Maldives, India on Friday said that the Maldivian Government must “respect and abide” by Thursday night’s order of the Supreme Court of Maldives on “release of all political prisoners” there. New Delhi said this should be done in the “spirit of democracy and rule of law”.
New Delhi also made it clear that the safety of Indian nationals in the Maldives should be ensured, adding that it was monitoring the situation. According to various news agency reports, the Maldivian Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders, terming their trials a violation of the constitution and international law.
India has been unhappy with increasing Chinese influence in the Maldives and previous crackdowns on Opposition leaders by the Maldivian Government. New Delhi has also been upset on the way in which Maldives recently signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.
In its reaction, over the “evolving situation in Maldives after order of the Supreme Court of Maldives”, New Delhi said, “We have seen last night’s order of the Supreme Court of Maldives releasing all political prisoners. In the spirit of democracy and rule of law, it is imperative for all organs of the Government of Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court. We also hope that the safety and security of the Indian expatriates in Maldives will be ensured by the Maldivian authorities under all circumstances. As a close and friendly neighbour, India wishes to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives. We are closely monitoring the evolving situation.”
According to some reports, the apex court in the Maldives has ordered new trials, citing the “questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders”. However, the International spokesperson at the Maldivian President’s office Ibrahim Hussain Shihab was quoted as saying in a statement, “While the ruling makes significant implications on various points of constitutional import and criminal justice procedures, it was issued without representation of the State from either the Attorney General or the Prosecutor General.”
News agencies have reported that the Maldives has seen political unrest and street protests since Nasheed was convicted in 2015 on terror charges and sentenced to 13 years in jail while Nasheed himself was earlier granted asylum by the UK after he was authorised to seek medical treatment there amid mounting foreign pressure. The Maldivian leader, who is currently reported to be in Sri Lanka, welcomed the court order and said Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen must resign in the wake of the ruling by the apex court.
Earlier this month, in a a bid to reassure India, visiting Maldives Foreign Minister Dr. Mohamed Asim (who is also the Special Envoy of the Maldives President Abdulla Yameen) had met both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi at meetings in which the senior Maldivian Minister had “reaffirmed his Government’s India First policy and emphasised that Maldives attached the highest priority to its ties with India”. After an invitation by Maldives which offered the olive branch to a miffed New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had agreed to visit the Maldives—-the only south Asian country he has not visited so far—-”at a suitable time”.