It has been a day since the Maldives parliament sacked the country’s vice president and accused him of treason. Legislators voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday evening to oust Mohamed Jameel, who was the running mate of President Abdulla Yameen in a controversial 2013 election but has now fallen out with him. <g data-gr-id="43">However</g> the more shocking update is that the 85-member Majlis, the parliament of Maldives, will now allow foreigners who invest more than US$1bn to purchase land within the project site. This has set alarm bells ringing among India’s foreign policy observers primarily because such a law would let China acquire land in the Maldives and build key strategic assets there.
Given that China’s foreign policy stance has been overtly defined by its string of pearls theory, this latest news is a matter of deep concern. New Delhi sees the latest development in the context of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen’s declared foreign policy shift to the East since last year. Chinese President Xi <g data-gr-id="44">Jingping</g> was the first head of state to visit the Maldives after <g data-gr-id="45">Yameen</g> assumed power. What’s worse, India’s relationship with the current government in Maldives has not been at its best after the incarceration of former president Mohammad Nasheed. Four months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put off his Maldives visit following Nasheed’s abrupt detention. When Mohammed Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008, little did he know that his victory was only the beginning of the road through perdition for the island. The arrest of opposition leader and the former President Nasheed had triggered a fresh crisis in the Maldives early this spring.
Many political commentators including Amnesty International have voiced their concern about the state of democracy in Maldives. Opposition parties together have started a movement called Save the Constitution movement. It is a movement which does not seem to be flagging anytime soon. The former president, Nasheed, had been arrested on the charge of terrorism for illegally ordering the detention of a judge. The government has failed to control the situation politically. Maldives had previously denied India’s claim that it held discussions with Indian officials regarding former President, who sought refuge at the Indian High Commission here to evade arrest, saying it cannot interfere with the independence of the judiciary. In 2008, Nasheed, became the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives, defeating Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had been dictator for 30 years.
In January 2012, he ordered the detention of Criminal Court judge Abdulla Mohamed for allegedly obstructing the police, ordering illegal probes, and accepting bribes to release certain criminals. The arrest triggered protests, following which, in February 2012, Nasheed resigned. He claimed he was forced to step down after soldiers and police mutinied, but his successor, Mohamed Waheed, said Nasheed had left on his own.
The Maldives is a major tourist attraction, but political and civil unrest has dented its image as a peaceful island paradise in recent years. A large number of Indian population resides in Maldives. Indians are the second largest expatriate community in the Maldives with <g data-gr-id="34">approximate</g> strength of around 26,000. <g data-gr-id="32">Indian</g> expatriate community consists of workers as well as professionals like doctors, teachers, accountants, managers, engineers, nurses and technicians etc. This latest news won’t be comforting for them or the Indian foreign contingent.