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Posted on Nov 16, 10:54PM | IANS
India Friday voiced concern at the "continuing political instability" in the Maldives in the wake of the arrest of four opposition members, including two lawmakers, and also over the anti-India demonstrations and statements by a section of people in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
While urging the Maldives government and the political parties to enter into a dialogue to solve issues, India also said it was closely monitoring the situation in order to ensure the safety and security of Indians in the Maldives and Indian interests in that country.
Maldivian police Friday arrested four members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), including two lawmakers, on charges of consuming alcohol, which is illegal in the country for locals. The MDP has termed the arrests politically motivated.
Four members of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed's MDP were arrested, including Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, a former secretary general of the SAARC and Nasheed's special envoy. The MDP has recently submitted a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed, which is yet to be tabled.
The official external affairs ministry spokesperson said: "India has maintained regular dialogue with Maldivian authorities. As a close and friendly neighbour, we are concerned at the continuing political instability in the country. There is an urgent need for dialogue and reconciliation among all political parties in Maldives in a peaceful and democratic manner."
"India urges the Government of Maldives and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic principles and the rule of law, thus paving the way for the holding of free, fair and credible elections. Violence and coercive measures are not conducive to this end," the spokesperson said.
He also said that "India has been concerned at the occurrence of anti-India demonstrations and statements by a section in Maldives. A senior official of the Government of India visited Maldives recently and conveyed our concerns in regard to recent developments in the country."
Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed's spokesperson Adil Riza sparked a diplomatic row last week when he used intemperate language against Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar Mulay, describing him as a "traitor" and "an enemy of Maldives" at a rally to protest the leasing of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to Indian infrastructure major GMR by the government of former president Mohamed Nasheed.
"A diplomat's job is to work for his country and people and not to protect the interests of one private company...He is a traitor and enemy of Maldives and Maldivian people. We don't want these kind of diplomats on our soil," Riza had said.
In a statement, the Indian high commission said High Commissioner Mulay has condemned the remarks of the spokesperson and said it was "against diplomatic protocol".
In a damage-control exercise later, a statement posted on the official website of President Waheed said the government dissociates itself from the remarks made by Riza and some other government officials, and that these did not reflect the views of the government.
High Commissioner Mulay in his statement also noted that the new government in the Maldives has raised some issues particularly in respect of GMR, and said these could be addressed through negotiations, and if talks fail the Maldives could go ahead with arbitration.
The statement said that President Waheed on assumption of charge in 2012 gave an assurance to India and subsequently during his visit to New Delhi he assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that all the Indian investments, including the GMR, which happened to be the largest foreign investor in the country, will be protected and safeguarded.
On Thursday, President Waheed termed the GMR airport project as a "bad contract" and said it was signed "conceivably under dubious conditions" by his predecessor Mohammed Nasheed.
He also reacted strongly to India's concerns about developments in his country saying, "there is no reason to be concerned, since the country is fully functional and operational".
"This agreement was signed during the previous government conceivably under dubious conditions. So it's not an issue with GMR, it's an issue of a bad contract," he said.
Waheed also said that under the current agreement his government has to pay USD 1.5 million to GMR each month which is "not affordable to the Government of Maldives".
In 2010, Indian infrastructure major GMR entered into an agreement with the Maldivian government under then president Nasheed to upgrade and manage Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) for a 25-year period in a USD 500 million project.
The parties want to reclaim the airport from GMR, alleging that it was an "illegal" agreement signed by Nasheed which did not have the consent of parliament.
President Waheed succeeded Nasheed in February 2012 through a controversial transfer of power.
The external affairs spokesperson said: "The situation is being monitored closely keeping in view the need to ensure safety and security of Indians in Maldives and Indian interests in that country."