Nasheed disappointed with India, says Maldives ex-foreign minister

As India steps up efforts to broker a political deal in the Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Indian Ocean nation, says ousted president Mohamed Nasheed is "very disappointed" with New Delhi's stand and has rejected any attempt at a national government of unity.

"It was clearly a coup, and done with the complicity of Mohamed Waheed Hassan (then vice-president and now president)," Shaheed, a close aide of Nasheed and a senior member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), told IANS over phone from Male, the capital of the Maldives.

"The president was forced to resign. It was done with the connivance of sections of the army, the police and Islamist parties. It was an illegal takeover," said Shaheed, days after the 44-year-old Nasheed resigned amid a standoff between the executive and the judiciary, and police joining opposition protesters.

"(Former president Maumoon Abdul) Gayoom was behind it," Shaheed replied when asked who masterminded the protests leading to the Feb 7 resignation of Nasheed. Shaheed played a key role in the democratic movement in the Maldives, the archipelago nation comprising 1,192 islands, that dislodged Gayoom, Asia's longest serving ruler, in the country's first multi-party elections in 2008.

In an article in The New York Times, Nasheed has accused Gayoom and the remnants of the old regime of being behind what he called his "resignation at gunpoint".

Asked about India's assessment that it was not a coup but a transfer of power, Shaheed said: "The MDP and Nasheed are very disappointed with India's position. India is clearly not looking at the facts. We are disappointed."

India has contested the description of the chain of events leading to the nationally-televised resignation of Nasheed on the morning of Feb 7. Shaheed's comments came even as India's special envoy M. Ganapathi, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, returned after meeting a cross-section of political leaders, including the president and the former president, in Male to help mediate a political settlement for a broad-based national government of unity.

A key strategist of the MDP, Shaheed has, however, rejected joining any such structure and insisted that the best course would be for Waheed to resign and order fresh elections.

"The way ahead is clear: there should be an independent inquiry into the chain of events leading to the Feb 7 coup and legal accountability fixed. There can't be forced seizure of power in a democratic system," said Shaheed, now a UN diplomat.

"Secondly, Waheed should step down and order early elections. We are confident of winning. The Maldivians are not seeing the latest developments as peaceful transfer of power; they see it as a coup and will vote us back," he said. That's the only way to heal the nation and bring democracy back."

The new president has, however, ruled out snap polls. The MDP's hardening stance and political stand-off is bad news for India's mediatory efforts to stabilise the country of around 400,000 people that is faced with a long-term existential problem due to climate change. India has ruled out any military intervention in the present situation which it sees as "primarily an internal affair of the Maldives".

India has also viewed with concern the demonstrations led by Nasheed on the streets of Male that turned violent early this week as it feels instability is bad for a country that depends on tourism for over 60 percent of its GDP.

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