Maldives issues hands-off warning to India

Maldivian defence minister says military intervention could affect the respect that the country has for neighbours.

Published: 15th February 2018 02:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 07:24 AM   |  A+A-

Abdul Gayoom (File | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Maldives Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar has warned that any talk of Indian military intervention would adversely impact bilateral relations.

In an interview to a TV channel Wednesday, Umar said any talk of military intervention “...could affect the respect Maldivians have for their neighbours. Or the respect Indians have for us. It could affect Indian investments coming in to the Maldives. It is possible that there may be some difficulties facing Indian businessmen when visiting the Maldives or for Maldivians when travelling to India.”

Hours earlier, a statement released by the Ministry of Defence and National Security noted “with concern” that “calls for and encouragement of Indian military intervention and military action have been made by some Maldivians. Indian news media have been reporting on such calls, as well as speculations made by politicians and non-political personnel alike.”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed and some other Opposition leaders have repeatedly urged India to intervene militarily. These came after President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom rejected a Supreme Court ruling that overturned terror convictions against nine Opposition leaders and reinstated a dozen MPs disqualified for joining the Opposition.

Condemning such calls for intervention as “a threat to the nation’s independence and national security”, the statement said they were intended to “cast doubt on the excellent relationship India and Maldives have enjoyed for decades”.

Asserting that it “firmly believes that India would not act on any such calls”, it went on to note that at “no time has the government of Maldives requested any foreign country for military intervention in the Maldives, and that there is no threat to Maldives from being invaded by foreign military....”
The “rather rude” snub by the Maldives Defence Ministry, as an Indian security establishment official termed it, “will not be easily digested.”

Not only do India and the Maldives have a separate bilateral defence cooperation treaty signed in 2009, the two defence establishments have been particularly close. The Indian Navy patrols Maldivian waters and flies Dornier sorties in its skies. The chief of defence staff of the Maldivian National Defence Forces, Major General Ahmed Shiyam, is an alumnus of the National Defence College in New Delhi.

Shiyam was also the reviewing officer for the passing-out parade of the cadets of the Officers’ Training Academy in Chennai in March 2014. He was appointed not by Yameen, but by his predecessor, Mohammed Waheed.

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