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India Has Been Our All-weather Friend for the Last 52 Years, Asserts Maldives

In an exclusive conversation to News18, Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed said that Maldives still followed an India first policy and that governments from both sides were engaged in discussions and that India received regular updates on the crisis.

Aishwarya Kumar |

Updated:February 14, 2018, 3:57 PM IST
India Has Been Our All-weather Friend for the Last 52 Years, Asserts Maldives
Maldivian president Yameen Abdul Gayoom (C), surrounded by his body guards arrives to address his supporters in Male, Maldives. (AP)
New Delhi: Just days after the Maldivian Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said that India had refused an envoy visit from the island nation, the latter has asserted that it still has an India first policy.

“India has been our all-weather friend. We have 52 years of relationship, we are India’s oldest and dearest partners,” said Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed.

In an exclusive conversation to News18, Saeed said that Maldives still followed an India first policy and that governments from both sides were engaged in discussions and that India received regular updates on the crisis.

His opinion was endorsed by Deputy United Nations Representative Jeffrey Salim Waheed who said Maldives was still open to sending envoys to India, as and when the latter had a suitable time. He added that the governments were, in fact, working together on this.

Maldives had sent special envoys to its ‘friendly’ neighbours China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Waheed said that while the response has been supportive from the three countries, Maldives still followed an India first policy and would continue to work towards that.

“Yes, China was the first country we signed an FTA with in 2017, but we extended that invite to many countries, including United States of America, United Kingdom, Singapore, and India. With India, we already have regional agreements in place. So there is no question of Maldives not putting India on priority,” he told News18.

“Maldives Is Still the Sunny Side of Life”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Maldives quashed convictions related to corruption and terrorism charges against nine opposition figures, including former President Mohammed Nasheed. Things, however, took an ugly turn when the current government under Abdulla Yameen rejected the ruling and got the chief justice and another judge arrested.

Despite things not being normal, the Maldivian government has said that all is well in the island nation.

Saeed said that the arrests that were made were completely in tandem with the Maldivian Constitution.

“Nobody has the right to violate the Constitution. Justice prevails to everyone. For any democracy to prevail, countries go through various crisis. The good news with Maldives is that we’re handling this crisis without any violence, without any bloodshed,” he said, adding that the crisis was being blown out of proportion across the world.

Asserting that the government under Yameen was completely in control of the situation, the minister said that business was usual in the country with “airports functioning normally, core industries like tourism and fisheries doing well”.

Saeed further said that the government was working towards creating jobs and increasing airport infrastructure to accommodate more tourists.

“We are probably the only country who catch one fish at a time. We take care of everything, including nature. We are developing a tourism product that will set an example to the rest of the world. We are working towards jobs and education for our children and the future,” he said, adding that the government would do everything in its power to ensure that all independent institutions, including courts, are strengthened.

“We came to power to restore social security order, create employment; we’re just delivering on our promises,” he said.

His opinion was endorsed by deputy United National representative Salim Waheed who said that the country was better than ever under Yameen’s leadership.

On countries issuing advisories on travelling against travelling to the island nation, Saeed said that things had become complicated because they were different from what the reality is.

“It is a globalised world. We want to tell people that Maldives is shining and are still the sunny side of life, yes, we are handling a difficult issue that we didn’t want to face. It’s not easy but we are quite confident that we’ll overcome the situation soon and life will be better,” he added.

Nasheed Just Wants To Be In Limelight

Even as Maldives struggles with its domestic troubles, all guns seem to be aimed at Nasheed.

Waheed said that the former President was only making statements like the ones he’s been making to garner attention and publicity. Nasheed had requested India to send a special envoy ‘backed by military’ to Maldives to resolve the crisis. He took to Twitter to say that he was making the request on behalf of the Maldivian people.

“What he’s doing is a political stunt for publicity. I have been in service for 7 years now and I can say that Maldives has not seen a better time,” he said, adding that India would never heed to such a request. India is yet to respond to Nasheed’s statement.

Saeed too hinted at Nasheed’s unnecessary intervention, saying that what the island nation was in a ‘domestic, constitutional crisis.’

“It is a domestic issue and we are focused. By the end of the day, we receive some progress. Judges took bribes and they threatened to overthrow a government, which is a legitimately elected government. So, if the competitors want to say anything, they must say something at the ballot boxes, they must tell the Maldivian people what they have in store for the future,” the minister told News18, adding that the former minister was blowing things out of proportion.

“He always wants to be in the limelight. I believe that now everyone has understood who he really is. Why can’t he come and serve his sentence? He abducted a criminal court judge during his regime. The whole world was asking Nasheed to release him. In justice, everyone is equal,” he said.

Nasheed, who is in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, urged India to send an envoy backed by it’s military to the Maldives to free the political detainees and judges.

He also asked the United States to block financial transactions of government leaders. The exiled former president of the Maldives further accused authorities of ill-treatment of a Supreme Court judge thrown into prison following the imposition of emergency in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Nasheed has also slammed China’s alleged growing influence in the island nation and its functioning. Accusing the Asian giant of ‘land grabbing’ in Maldives, Nasheed claimed that China has made high investments to build resorts in almost 17 islands in Maldives. China, however, quashed his claims and said that his statements were meant to “serve certain political purposes of him.”
| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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