NEW DELHI: On Sunday, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested on terrorism charges even as that nation announced the “impending visit” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month. This has put India in a tight spot as it has to reconsider a state visit when the chief Opposition leader could be behind bars.
While rumours of an imminent arrest of Nasheed, Maldives’ first democratically elected President, have gained momentum, the charges under which he was finally arrested took many by surprise. He was arrested from his residence in connection with the detention of the Criminal Court Chief Judge in January 2012, with the arrest warrant stating that he may try to flee.
The warrant also cited evidence from a police intelligence report and court proceedings at Hulhumale Magistrate. The charges carry death penalty or life imprisonment.
Ironically, among Nasheed’s co-defendants, who have also been accused of terrorism, is the Maldivian Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel.
Just as the arrest was being effected, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry tweeted on behalf of the Foreign Minister, “The impending visit of PM Modi is a clear reflection of the warm friendship between India and President Yameen’s Government - FM Dunya”.
Just two days ago, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry tweeted that there was “no doubt that India will adhere to the principle of Panchsheel and will not intervene in the domestic issues of Maldives”.
On Friday, a group of senior Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leaders were in Delhi to meet think tanks and the media to air their views on the need for India to intervene in the issue.
MDP international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghaffoor said the President Yameen is resorting to increasingly desperate and dictatorial methods to cling to power. “We urge India to pressure the Maldives Government to drop the new charges against Nasheed, and help restore stability and democracy to Maldives,” Ghaffoor told Express.
However, India did not react to Nasheed’s arrest on terrorism charges. According to sources, a statement may be issued after Nasheed appears before the court on Monday.