India-Maldives ties at a peak: envoy

Ahmed Mohamed says Narendra Modi's visit to the islands is expected at the earliest  

The India-Maldives relationship has passed through “tough times”, says Maldivian High Commissioner to India, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed, and that after several months of tensions, relations have been restored to “a comfortable plane” with the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the joint commission meeting on October 10.

In an interview with The Hindu , the High Commissioner referred to events earlier this year, including the sudden cancellation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Male as a part of his Indian Ocean islands tour in March, as “the past.”

“We never gave up on India. Those were tough times, but the relationship now is comfortable, I would say it is at a peak with the joint commission just held, and a visit from PM Modi expected at the earliest.”

The governments are also ready to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty (MLAT), which was cleared by the Indian Cabinet this week, and New Delhi is one of five countries helping with the investigation into a bomb blast aboard President Yameen’s boat that left his wife with lasting injuries. The MEA has politely ignored the turmoil in the Maldives Cabinet, making no mention about the sacking of the Defence Minister, and raiding of Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb’s house during Ms. Swaraj’s visit.

India’s actions in the past few weeks have come in contrast to the strain of previous months, marked not just by the MEA’s stern statements on the Maldives’ handling of the Nasheed trial, but also on the Yameen government’s growing closeness to China. Instead, India made no comment on a ruling by the U.N. tribunal, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that the Nasheed trial was “unlawful”. India has also refused to respond to an appeal from the ousted former leader, who has been convicted on terrorism charges and is serving a jail term of 13 years.

In a series of tweets dictated to his lawyer this week, Mr. Nasheed had called for Mr. Modi to visit Maldives in order to “disentangle the mess we are in”. In what seemed like a veiled criticism of the Modi government’s recent softening towards the Yameen government, Mr. Nasheed also said that he hoped India would not allow “political pragmatism” to let it “drop this catch”.

During her visit to the Maldives, Ms. Swaraj did meet a leader from Mr. Nasheed’s party the MDP, but while reports say she took up the cause of Mr. Nasheed with President Yameen, neither side made any announcement to that effect.

Asked if India was now making a U-turn on its support to Mr. Nasheed, a senior official denied it, saying only that India’s objective was “to create a more harmonious Maldives,” adding, “In Maldives, our comfort lies in the fact that all the parties should get on.”