New Delhi/Male: With
the crisis in the Maldives deepening as defiant former president
Mohamed Nasheed alleged a coup, India has stepped up its outreach
to all key political interlocutors in the archipelago nation to
push a political deal that spurs the process of forming a
broad-based national government of unity.
New Delhi has also stepped up diplomatic outreach and briefed the
ambassadors of the P5 -- the US, Britain, France, China and Russia
-- and Sri Lanka on its assessment of the unfolding crisis in the
Maldives which it regards as "an internal political affair" of the
Indian Ocean archipelago nation comprising around 1,200 scattered
A team of senior officials of the external affairs ministry led by
M. Ganapathi, secretary (West), reached the capital Male Friday
afternoon and are in the process of meeting key political figures
across the spectrum, government sources said in New Delhi.
"I have sent an envoy to Maldives to assess the situation," Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters in New Delhi, adding that
it was his sincere hope that the matter can be resolved through
peaceful dialogue. "It will be our effort to use our influence in
that direction," he said.
The Indian team has already met Nasheed and conveyed that he
should join in efforts to stabilise the situation. They are also
expected to meet Maldives's new president Mohammed Waheed Hassan
and other important political leaders and impress upon them to
expedite the process of a broad-based coalition government that
could restore peace and stability to the island nation.
The Indian high commission in Male is also in constant situation
with the rapidly evolving situation in the Maldives as Nasheed's
supporters took to the streets on the second consecutive day,
demanding the restoration of democracy and calling for early
In Male, Nasheed, surrounded by his supporters, also called for
the immediate release of around 500 supporters arrested for
allegedly burning down police stations and court houses during
demonstrations on Wednesday, a day after he resigned amid a
standoff between the executive and the judiciary and the police
joining opposition protesters.
Nasheed has, however, claimed he was forced to resign "almost at
gunpoint." The new president has denied any coup attempt.
In talks with senior Maldives politicians, India's effort will be
to encourage a negotiated political settlement that helps the
island country to return to stability as soon as possible.
Instability is bad for everyone, specially for a country that
depends on tourism as a key driver of its economy, sources said.
Maldives, known for its luxury island resorts, depends on 1
million tourists who come annually and bring in $1 billion,
contributing over 60 percent of the country's GDP.
With a Maldivian court issuing arrest warrant for Nasheed, which
the new government has not acted on, India has urged the new
president to ensure that Nasheed is not arrested or harmed in any
way. "Nasshed is safe. We have been assured that he will not be
harmed," said sources.
India has, however, ruled out any military intervention in
the present situation which it sees as "primarily an internal
affair of the Maldives".
The sources pointed out that unlike in 1988, when the then Rajiv
Gandhi government sent troops to the Maldives at the request of
then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to prevent a coup externally
induced by rogue elements from Sri Lanka, this time it's an
internal political affair and hence does not warrant military
Since the Feb 7 resignation of Nasheed, a former political
prisoner and proactive human rights campaigner, India has taken
the position that the present crisis in the island nation is an
internal affair of the Maldives and should be resolved peacefully
by the Maldivians themselves.
India is also of the view that the change of guard in the Maldives
was not a "coup" but part of a constitutional transition of power.
With over 30,000 Indians residing in the Maldives, India is ready
with a contingency plan to evacuate them if the violence on the
streets spins out of control. "We are the nearest neighbour of
Maldives. If there is any contingency, we are ready to help," said
the sources. India's assessment is that the situation is
relatively calm now and there does not seem to be any urgency for
any contingency plan. "There is absolutely no basis for military
intervention unless there is a legal basis for it," said the
On the diplomatic front, besides briefing the P5 ambassadors and
Sri Lanka, India also plans to update SAARC countries on the
situation in the Maldives and press for a democratic solution to
the present impasse.