New Delhi: The Maldivian foreign ministry summoned the Indian high commissioner in Malé on Sunday to lodge a protest over a tweet by an Indian ruling party parliamentarian advocating the invasion of the Indian ocean nation if the forthcoming elections were not free and fair.
The envoy, Akhilesh Mishra, was summoned by Maldives’ foreign secretary Ahmed Sareer just a few hours after India publicly distanced itself from Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy’s tweet.
“India should invade Maldives if rigging of election takes place,” Swamy had posted on his twitter account on August 24. The controversial tweet came two days after his meeting with former president Mohamed Nasheed in Colombo, where the latter had briefed him about opposition concerns about the forthcoming elections.
Maldivian local media reported that a formal protest was lodged by the Maldives government, but no official statements were issued either in Malé or New Delhi.
However, sources confirmed to The Wire that the Maldivian foreign ministry had expressed its “displeasure” to the Indian high commissioner over Swamy’s tweet.
Soon after Swamy spoke of invading the archipelago, Maldivian ministers used his tweet to drive the narrative that the opposition were aiming to undermine national sovereignty ahead of the September 23 presidential elections.
Maldives’ defence minister Adam Shareef Umar posted on Facebook that Maldivians will not allow external powers to interfere with its internal affairs.
Mohamed Muizz, housing minister, tweeted that Swamy’s threat validated the ruling party’s contention that the vote on September 23 was for independence and sovereignty.
The state-funded Public Service Media not only described Swamy as pro-Israeli and anti-Islamic, but claimed that Nasheed had lobbied with the BJP parliamentarian to invade the Maldives.
The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) majority leader in parliament Ahmed Nihan taunted the opposition presidential candidate for silently endorsing Swamy’s word. Nihan had been denied entry by India in June.
My Dear @ibusolih Are you supporting this “Invasion” ? Being the Opposition Presidential Candidate, People want to know your stand. ? Are you agreeing to welcome a foriegn country to invade Maldives? Are u Silently behind this! Are you OK to compromise our sovereignty ? https://t.co/eaAsSPjGih
— Ahmed Nihan (@ahmed_nihan) August 24, 2018
Maldives is an independent & sovereign nation.This is unacceptable .
I am confident India is & will always remain as our best friend & will not act against our traditional friendship.However we reiterate our call to India to pressure Pres. Yameen to hold a free & fair election. https://t.co/oXpJo7Smy7
— Ahmed Mahloof (@AhmedMahloof) August 24, 2018
On Saturday, the joint opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih objected to Swamy’s tweet “in the strongest terms”:
I object to such rhetoric in the strongest terms. The EC & Pres Yameen are already complicit in voter fraud. Such violations must be addressed within the internationally established framework. Not with emotionally charged statements. The sovereignty of the Maldives is paramount. https://t.co/IGZvbKSwY0
— Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (@ibusolih) August 25, 2018
“Such violations must be addressed within the internationally established framework. Not with emotionally charged statements. The sovereignty of the Maldives is paramount,” he added.
Faced with escalating political temperatures in the Maldives, India issued a statement on Sunday early morning.
“The opinion expressed by Dr. Swamy in his tweet is personal. It does not reflect the views of the Government of India,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
A similar controversy had erupted in February, with Maldivian government functionaries taking umbrage at the remarks of former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, who was then still a member of BJP.
Following the imposition of emergency by President Yameen after the Supreme Court had ordered the release of all political prisoners, Sinha had said that India should keep the option of sending troops to Maldives. However, there were no formal protest lodged by the Maldives government and neither was the Indian high commissioner summoned.