Ousted Maldives president coming to press for early polls

New Delhi:  With the political deadlock persisting in the Maldives, ousted president Mohamed ‘Anni’ Nasheed comes to India next week to seek New Delhi’s diplomatic push for early elections in his picture-pretty Indian Ocean island country.

Nasheed is expected to be in New Delhi for four days starting April 17, highly placed sources said.

In his meetings with India’s leaders and senior officials, Nasheed is expected to update them on the chain of events that led to the dramatic ouster of the first democratically elected president over two months ago.

Nasheed, who had to resign Feb 7 amid protests and mutiny by sections of the police, will also be pushing the Indian leadership to use its diplomatic clout to nudge President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, his vice president who was then installed as president by his opponents, to honour the India-brokered deal for early elections.

“I have every confidence that India will take the lead of the international community to restore genuine democracy which has been tested for three years,”said Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, a close aide of Nasheed and a former presidential special envoy and SAARC secretary-general.

In early March, India had helped broker a deal among Maldives’ political parties which envisaged a broad consensus for early elections in a “quick time frame” and a growing recognition of New Delhi’s role as a facilitator in resolving the political crisis in the strategically located Indian Ocean island nation.

However, since then the new regime in Male has been dragging its feet over early elections, with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said to be the power behind the current dispensation, declaring his opposition to it.

Earlier, Nasheed had voiced unhappiness with what he felt was undue haste with which New Delhi recognised the new president and contended that it was not a peaceful transfer of power, but a “coup” backed by Islamist elements and powerful resort owners.

But after India did course correction and helped broker a deal among feuding political parties in the Maldives, Nasheed struck a placatory note and welcomed India’s role in resolving the crisis.

In an interview to a US talk show last month, Nasheed had voiced disappointments with the governments of India and the US for being in haste to recognise the new president Waheed whom he had accused of seizing power in a coup.

“I will go to India in the middle of next month and plan to meet as many political leaders as possible, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” said Nasheed.He further added, “I would like to ask the people of India to be with us and to not let go (of their support for us). They should not let dictatorship return to Maldives. We have to have early elections. We can come back on track again. We definitely need the support of India.”

India is concerned about the ongoing drift in neighbouring Maldives, because of its strategic and security implications, amid reports about right-wing Islamist forces trying to strengthen their stranglehold in the country that comprises 1,190 coral islands, of which only 200 are inhabited, and half of which are resorts attracting high-end tourists from all over the world.

 

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