Maldivian Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed Wednesday said that India has still not stated a reason why ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader and Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan was denied entry to India, and that the situation is alarming.
MP Nihan had travelled to Chennai Monday night for to seek medical treatment. Upon his arrival, however, the immigration officers refused to grant him a visa, despite him carrying a diplomatic passport which bears a SAARC visa sticker that allows visa-free entry to all member countries.
He was held at the airport for four hours before the authorities asked him to leave on the next available flight.
This is the first incident where a top government official has been refused a visa to neighbouring India, recently.
The two individuals travelling with the lawmaker were granted entry to the country.
Speaking to Mihaaru, Ambassador Mohamed said that the Maldives’ embassy in India began probing why the ruling party MP was denied entry to India, immediately after the incident was brought to their attention.
The embassy has officially lodged the matter at the Indian foreign ministry as well, Mohamed added.
“It is concerning that a senior member of Maldives’ government was treated this way,” the ambassador said.
According to Mohamed, the embassy had recently received reports of Maldivian citizens being denied entry to India and being asked leave the country. The embassy queried the matter, but the Indian government has not responded, he said.
“Whenever an incident like this happens, we try to find definitive reasons why it happened. But we have not been able to get a clear answer from the [Indian] authorities yet.”
When asked whether he believed that refusal to grant MP Nihan a visa to enter India had anything to do with recent tensions between the Maldivian government and India, he said he does not believe that to be the case, and that he thinks these are genuine mistakes.
Speaking to the press Tuesday night, MP Nihan had described the incident as “a bigger country bullying a smaller country”; he had said that India should have the capacity to disclose its disgruntlements with the Maldives, if it has any, instead of resorting to superfluous measures.
Further, if India has enforced any sort of sanctions against Maldives, the Maldivian government has to be informed, he said.
“We need to know if these [refusals] are targeted towards government officials and pro-government [parliament] members. I’m saying this because it only became a problem when I identified the party that I represented in the parliament. When I said I’m from PPM, he hesitated and asked me again to wait.”
The Maldives-India relations have become turbulent in the recent years due to incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s close economic ties with China; a growing concern for India as Maldives is in its ‘backyard.’ The relations between Maldives and India worsened after India criticised the president’s decision to enforce a state of emergency, and called on the government to enforce the top court’s ruling on February 1 to release all political prisoners.