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Setbacks for Indian diplomacy

Setbacks for Indian diplomacy

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's assertion that controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik will not be extradited to India is latest in the series of diplomatic setbacks that India has received in the recent months. "As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him because he has been given permanent resident status," Mahathir had said. Indian investigating agencies are seeking his custody for fuelling communal hatred through his speeches and funding terror activities in India and Bangladesh. India has made a formal request to Malaysia for the extradition of Naik. Indian Ministry of External Affairs has maintained that the country's request is under 'active consideration'. Minister of State in the Home Ministry Hansraj Ahir responded to the Malaysian PM's statement saying Naik will not be spared. "Maybe not now but eventually he will be arrested and brought to justice, he will not be spared," he said. In a statement, he said, "The news of my coming to India is totally baseless and false. Dismissing claims in a section of media that Naik would return to India, he said in a statement, "I have no plans to come to India till I don't feel safe from unfair prosecution. Insha Allah when I feel that the government will be just and fair, I will surely return to my homeland." Naik had left India for Malaysia in 2016 after coming under the scanner of Indian probe agencies, especially the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which was probing the source of money and the money laundering aspect of his financial transactions including the investments in Peace TV, through which he was propagating his views.

India's relationship with the Maldives is on a steady decline. After returning the two naval helicopters gifted to the Maldives by India, the Maldivian government has sent a delegation to Pakistan to study how the water-based power generation system works for a possible technical collaboration with the country in the field of hydropower. The Maldivian government has not considered India for the cooperation and in line with its recent policy to step up its engagements with Muslim countries, it has preferred Pakistan for the project. Besides, beginning this year, Indians working in the Maldives have been complaining that their work permits are not being renewed by the government. Nearly 29,000 Indians work in the Maldives and many of them are facing inordinate delays in visa renewal by the Maldivian authorities. The relationship between Maldives and India began deteriorating after the current Maldivian government under President Abdulla Yameen inked several deals with China allowing the country to increase its investments and make strategic inroads in the country. Abdulla Yameen defeated former President Mohamed Nasheed by a slight margin in 2013 and later put opposition leaders in jail for meeting the Indian envoy without the government's permission. Yameen also put its Supreme Court judges in the jail after they pronounced that the arrest of the opposition leaders was wrong. In February this year, he also declared a state of emergency for 15 days in the country. The Maldivian SC had to reverse its decision after the judges were put behind the bars. Soon after the election in 2013, the Yameen government adopted an anti-India stance and favoured the Chinese in most of the business deals. It has reportedly sold some of its 26 atolls to China, which looks at the country as an important partner of its Maritime Silk Road project. During the latest round of political turmoil in the country early this year, former president Mohamed Nasheed, who lives in exile in Sri Lanka, had requested India to intervene. But, the Chinese media warned India that if it took any military action against the Yameen government, the Chinese military would come to the aid of the Yameen government.

Besides Malaysia and Maldives, neighbouring Nepal is also itching to cut down its dependence on India. Recently, Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was on a six-day visit to China and during the visit, he signed a number of MoUs to enhance bilateral cooperation. One of the MoUs provides for the construction of a rail link between Lhasa and Kathmandu through the arduous Himalayas. The two countries have already signed up similar MoUs for China to extend its highways up to Nepal border. As India shares a 1,750-km long open border with Nepal, the Chinese highways and railways reaching up to Kathmandu is not a good news for Indian security establishment. But guided by its own national interest, Nepal is today less concerned about India's concerns and sensitivity. Oli says Nepal wants to pursue an independent policy and does not want to pit India and China against one another. But the fact that it is getting too close to China and in the process India's strategic interests are being compromised cannot be overlooked.

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