【New Delhi】Behind the facade of its stated India First policy, the Abdulla Yameen regime in the Maldives continues to run circles around the Indian government.
Taken aback by reports in the past few days from Male that Maldives wanted a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft from India, top South Block sources told TOI that the letter of exchange (LoE) for deployment of a Dornier in the archipelago had actually been pending with the Yameen government since 2016.
“Formal acceptance of the offer through the LoE by Male is the first step to initiate the process for construction of hangar and deployment of Dornier but they have chosen to sit over it for two years,” said a top government official requesting anonymity.
Calling out Male for what they described as its duplicitous nature, official sources here said the talk about the need for a Dornier aircraft was nothing but a fig leaf intended to candy-coat Male’s decision to get rid of a naval chopper which was gifted by the Indian government.
Top government sources told TOI that the Yameen government had not just refused to renew the LoE for the Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) operating from Addu atoll but had also not responded to an advance offer by India to renew the LoE for the other ALH based in Laamu atoll.
At Laamu, one of the southernmost atolls, the Chinese are said to be considering building a port.
This location is significant because, as TOI said in a report in April 2016, it sits at the entrance to the One and a Half Degree Channel, a major international shipping passage through the Maldives.
○Repairing ties with the Maldives will test Indian diplomacy
【New Delhi】The Maldivian government’s decision to lift the state of emergency after 45 days, just ahead of the expiry of its second self-imposed deadline, comes as cold comfort for those concerned about the turn of events in the islands over the past couple of months.
In a statement India said the withdrawal of the emergency is but “one step”, and much more must be done to restore democracy in the Maldives.
The opposition, mostly in exile and led by former President Mohamad Nasheed, says the emergency was lifted only because President Abdulla Yameen has established total control over the judiciary and parliament since the February 1 court verdict that cancelled the sentencing of 12 opposition leaders and ordered their release.
In a dramatic turn of events Mr. Yameen had then ordered the arrest of two judges, as well as hundreds of activists and politicians including former President Abdul Gayoom, and imposed a state of emergency. The remaining judges overturned the February 1 release order, under what is seen to be coercion by the security forces, which had locked down the Majlis (parliament) and court buildings. Therefore, lifting the emergency does not automatically amount to status quo ante.
Repairing India-Maldives ties, that have taken an equally sharp dip since February 1, will be a tall order. Bolstered by a close relationship with China, Mr. Yameen has in a matter of months gone from declaring an ‘India first’ policy to disregarding its concerns. With military exchanges, a free trade agreement with China and a slew of Chinese infrastructure investments in place, the Yameen government clearly considers itself sufficiently insulated from any counter-moves by India or the U.S.
After ‘gift’ return, India calls Maldives’ bluff on Dornier
After the emergency: repairing ties with Maldives
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