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India asks China not to send troops but to play 'constructive role' in Maldives

Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service, New Delhi, Feb 9 2018, 22:24 IST

Modi discuss situation in Indo-Pacific with Trump

Raveesh Kumar.

Raveesh Kumar.

India on Friday asked China to play "a constructive role" in Maldives, after President Abdulla Yameen's government in Male called upon Beijing to send troops to protect its investment in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

"We note that China has said that Maldives government has the ability to protect the security of Chinese personnel and institutions in Maldives," Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said. He was responding to a query on Maldives' request to China for support to maintain the communist country's investments in the island nation. "We hope that all countries can play a constructive role in Maldives, instead of doing the opposite," Kumar said, tacitly asking Beijing not to pay heed to Male's request to send troops to the Indian Ocean archipelago.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Donald Trump discussed the situation in Maldives, China too got in touch with India, stating that it did not want the island nation to be another flashpoint. Hours after Modi and Trump "expressed concern" over the turmoil in Maldives and "pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region", China on Friday indicated that it was in touch with India to help resolve the political crisis in the island nation.

A PTI report from Beijing on Friday quoted "Chinese official sources" as saying that China was in touch with India to resolve the crisis in Maldives. The report also quoted "sources" as saying that China did not want Maldives to become another "flashpoint".

Maldives' president sent his Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed to Beijing to brief the Chinese government and secure its support for his refusal to abide by the order of the Supreme Court to release all political prisoners, arrest of Chief Justice of the apex court and declaration of State of Emergency in the tiny archipelago.

Saeed, the special envoy of Maldives president, had a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese government, told journalists in Beijing that the international community should respect sovereignty and independence of Maldives. "The current situation in Maldives is its internal affairs. It should be properly resolved through dialogue and consultations by all relevant parties," PTI quoted Geng as saying.

His comment came after Trump and Modi underlined the "importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law" in Maldives.

The tiny Indian Ocean island has of late been yet another scene where India and China are in competition to expand geopolitical influence.

Yameen's arch-rival and former president of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed already called upon New Delhi to send a special envoy to Male and follow it up with a military intervention to make the government in Maldives stop misusing its powers.

Yameen also sent special envoys to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Embassy of Maldives in New Delhi claimed that Male wanted to send a special envoy to India on Thursday. New Delhi, however, declined to host Maldivian President's emissary as the prime minister was busy electioneering in Tripura and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was out on a tour to Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Sources told DH that Male had not informed New Delhi about the purpose of the visit by the special envoy of Maldivian president. Besides, New Delhi conveyed its disappointment to Yameen's government in Male over its failure to allay the concerns expressed by the international community and India. "Democratic institutions and the judiciary continue to be undermined and concerns of the international community ignored," a source said, sharing New Delhi's view on the prevailing situation in Maldives. "These issues need to be properly addressed (by Maldives' government)."

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