The Maldivian opposition on Thursday called on India to take on a more active role in "restoring democracy" in the island nation and put pressure on President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's government by taking steps like imposing sanctions.
"The Maldives United Opposition supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Region First' policy, without reservation. We believe that the Indian Ocean is India's Ocean, and it should remain that way," Ahmed Naseem, former Maldivian foreign minister and senior leader of Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said here.
"We reject President Yameen's attempts to balance priorities between our neighbour India on the one hand, and a large country 5,000 kilometres away, on the other. We believe that Yameen's policy of playing one country off against another is undesirable, untenable and unwarranted," he said in an apparent reference to China and India during an interaction at the Observer Research Foundation.
Asserting that India can play a much bigger role in the Maldives, Naseem sought more active Indian role in bringing back democracy on track in his country.
"India should not allow fatigue to set in," Naseem said when asked about what the opposition expected from India.
Naseem, who is heading a delegation of shadow ministers of the Maldives United Opposition which has brought together political leaders and parties from across the spectrum, expressed concern over "growing radicalization" in that country and alleged that there were training camps of ISIS on its soil.
Naseem said Maldives United Opposition is trying to get the message across that it is impossible to have an election in 2018 under the prevailing conditions.
"So we are appealing to the government of India as our closest and the biggest democracy in the world to pressure the government of the Maldives to get away from what they are doing," he said. "We know that even major countries huge countries ... also bend to pressure ... sanctions, various things ... and Maldives you know is no exception. 80 per cent of the foreign exchange is earned through tourism," Naseem said.
The call for sanctions was made during an interaction between Naseem-led visiting delegation of the shadow ministers of the newly-launched Maldives United Opposition with experts, media and the diplomatic community in India.
Naseem, shadow minister for foreign affairs, said the primary objective of the Maldives United Opposition is to bring the country back on a democratic path, which respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, as guaranteed under the Maldives' Constitution.
"President Yameen has shown no interest in upholding the constitution he was elected to protect. Instead, he has made it abundantly clear — through his words and deeds — that he intends to make the Maldives an authoritarian state under his rule," he alleged.
The newly formed opposition alliance had said it will seek to oust incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and form an interim government to ensure free and fair elections scheduled in 2018.
Five rival opposition groups had announced a united front to remove president Yameen from office.
The Maldives United Opposition brings together the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, two of Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.