“Don’t be fooled. Yameen Has No Love For India”: Former Maldives Foreign Minister
Ahmed Naseem in India for help to ensure fair polls
NEW DELHI: Maldives former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, who is in India to secure political support from the Indian government for ensuring a free, fair and inclusive upcoming September elections in his country, has emerged as a prominent leader of the opposition against the ‘nearly autocratic’ Yameen government.
“It is in India’s security interest to save Maldives” says Naseem said at a press conference in New Delhi organised by the South Asian Women in Media and the Press Club of India. He said that the ground reality is changing fast in the Maldives.
“Don’t be fooled. (President Abdulla) Yameen is in no love with India. His regime is a business model. Maldivian islands are just 70 miles from Lakshadweep and about 140 miles from mainland Cochin, local populations are evacuated from these islands, creating a human rights issue, and handed over to Beijing. Beijing controls 16 such islands today. These islands are also the route through which 80% of the crude oil shipping traffic from Middle East passes. This will create future security threats in the Indian Ocean region which will be the most dangerous one”, he said.
The buck doesn’t stop here. There is another worrying domestic trend in Maldives threatening national security of India as well as of the world, i.e, growing islamic militancy in Maldives according to Naseem. Currently, Maldives has more people per capita being recruited by the ISIS than from any other nation.
“They are running a parallel shadow state within the country”,Naseem said.
He referred to the Al Jazeera documentary ‘Stealing Paradise’ to explain the growing nexus between the ruling regime and street gangs.
Asked how Yameen had come so far despite his authoritarian ways Naseem was clear,“because he is backed by Beijing. “They are not only providing basic support to Yameen but are actually encouraging him to destroy Maldivian democracy.” But why would China support Yameen? “Because dictators are easier to seduce into a debt trap”, answered Naseem
“With China, Maldives has become a classic case of debt trap. It is in debt till its eye balls. As a means of re-payment, China is grabbing land and involved in numerous infrastructural projects. If nothing is done, Maldives will be lost and will be a little Chinese colony soon,” he added.
Responding to the Citizen reporters query on Maldives decision to return the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) gifted by India in 2013, Naseem also critcised the move.
“They were sent by the NDA government on our request. These helicopters have been very beneficial to Maldivian people helping them to move from one island to another in the time of crisis. It shouldn’t be removed.”
In a follow up development, the Maldivian government has canceled work visa of Indian stationed to maintain and run these helicopters. There are also reports of non-issuance and go-slow on Indian work visas by the Maldivian government that has denied the move. However, the Indian mission in the Maldives has confirmed the news to which Naseem responded, “trust the Indian embassy.”
India has cut the export quota for essential goods to Male. Naseem is hopeful that these terms can always be re-negotiated.
Looking at solutions, he believes the Maldives current political crisis can be closed through India’s leadership with cooperation from the US, the UK, Sri Lanka and others. “He (Yameen) can’t go against the world.”
Naseem’s political solution rests on India. But intervention is a sensitive issue. Naseem has no such doubts and pointed out, “India and China are two major powers of Asia. They are bound to cooperate on many issues but it won’t be wise on India’s part to allow China to take over a country which is historical close and strategically important.”
However Yameen has made it clear that it does not expect any interference from India in Maldivian internal affairs. Maldives has yet to confirm its participation at an annual Delhi Dialogue, a track 1.5 event organized by India since 2009 to be held here on July 19-20 this his year.
To a question on this by The Citizen Naseem said, “Confirmation won’t come as Yameen government has got nothing to financially gain from it.”
He refrained from mentioning any one in particular but confirmed meetings with people in the government were on the itinerary. “The sense I am getting from India is very positive and I respect that”, he said.
He concluded by urging, “Please take this matter seriously. Time is of essence here.”