India wooing rivals of Nasheed in Maldives
Amid growing political tension in Maldives, India this week hosted a top leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – the principal challenger to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)– headed by island nation’s democracy icon and deposed President Mohamed Nasheed.
The DRP leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai during his visit to New Delhi. He was accompanied by Maldives’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hassan Saeed, besides other DRP leaders supporting President Waheed Hassan’s Government ever since the archipelagic nation went through a change of regime last February.
During his meeting with the DRP leader, Singh reiterated India’s commitment to work with Maldives “for the economic development and progress” of the island nation. He also expressed hope that “all the stakeholders” would “work together to resolve the current situation in the Maldives and help in maintaining an environment of peace and stability in the country.”
New Delhi played host to the DRP chief and other leaders of the party, ostensibly to broad-base India’s influence across the political spectrum of Maldives, which has been going through political turmoil ever since Nasheed stepped down as President on February 7 last. Ali was accompanied by other leaders of the DRP as well.
The DRP was earlier headed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled Maldives unchallenged for three decades from 1978 to 2008 – the year that witnessed the first multi-party elections in the history of the archipelago. The polls led to Nasheed taking over as President.
India has been using its influence in Maldives to restore political stability after Nasheed stepped down on February 7 last in the wake of differences within the MDP-led ruling coalition, paving the way for Vice President Hassan National Unity Party to take over as President. Nasheed, however, later alleged that he was forced to resign. He also criticized India for quickly recognizing the new Government led by Hassan.
The next elections might take place in 2013. India also played host to Nasheed and his successor Hassan after the change of regime in Male. Due to its strategic interests in Indian Ocean, New Delhi maintains that peace and political stability in Maldives was of “great importance” for India.