Indian Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra met with the Maldives’ Foreign Secretary Ahmed Sareer on Thursday to discuss strengthening the enduring ties between the two South Asian neighbours.
The foreign ministry announced the meeting in a tweet, stating that Mishra reiterated “the commitment to further strengthen relations between the Maldives and India”. No further details were provided.
The relationship between the Maldives and India appear to have deteriorated over recent months. According to Indian media, a rift had occurred between both countries after the Maldives signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in December 2017. However, the Maldivian government asserted that the FTA would not hinder relations with India while President Abdulla Yameen also disclosed that they were looking to come to a similar agreement with the neighbouring nation.
India-Maldives relations took another blow in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on February 1 to release political prisoners and reinstate unseated legislators. India had strongly urged the Maldivian government to comply with the top court order. It had also raised concerns when President Yameen declared a state of emergency a few days later and arrested several prominent figures, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two top court justices, for allegedly giving and accepting bribes to stage a coup via the apex court.
Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, as well as US President Donald Trump, had called Yameen regarding the state of emergency, which the opposition said was unlawfully declared.
Moreover Yameen had sent envoys to a number of countries, including India, to explain the ongoing political situation of the Maldives. However India had refused to meet the president’s representative, saying that the Maldives was not in a position to hold such a sit-down at the time.
Amidst the charged political atmosphere, former President Mohamed Nasheed had claimed in an interview to Indian media that Maldivian insurgents, who allegedly fought alongside Islamic State (ISIS) in foreign conflicts, were returning to the Maldives and embedding themselves in strategic places in the military, police, customs and immigration.
While the Maldivian security forces have denied these allegations, the leader of India’s ruling party BJP, Yashwant Sinha, declared that this poses a threat to India’s national security. Following Nasheed’s further claims of China having “taken over” several islands of the Maldives, which China has since refuted, Sinha also voiced concerns over China’s growing presence in the island nation.
He said that the Indian government has the option of sending military troops to the Maldives, to which China has responded that it would “take action” if India did so.
However, the Maldives’ defence ministry soon assured that it had received a guarantee that India would not send any troops to the island nation.