PM Modi cancels Maldives visit due to political unrest: Sources

  • AFP, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 07, 2015 17:56 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will skip the Maldives on a regional tour this month due to political unrest following the arrest of the former president and opposition leader, an Indian diplomat has said.

The Indian foreign ministry announced Friday that Modi would be visiting the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from March 10 to 14, with no stop scheduled in the Maldivian capital Male, which had been making plans to receive him.

"The visit was being discussed, arrangements were being made, but the sudden decision to drop Maldives is due to the current political situation in Male," an Indian diplomatic source in Colombo, declining to be named, told AFP.

"It would have been difficult to go ahead with the visit given the fact that there are daily protests in Male."

The arrest of former president Mohamed Nasheed on February 22 and his subsequent detention on terror charges have sparked regular anti-government protests and drawn international condemnation.

While Syed Akbaruddin, India's foreign ministry spokesperson, said there was "no question" of cancelling a visit that had never been announced, the Maldivian foreign minister told reporters last month that they were preparing to welcome Modi in the second week of March.

"I do not believe that the internal affairs of Maldives will affect the relationship between both the countries and that it will influence any planned official visits," Dunya Maumoon told a press conference after Nasheed's arrest.

There was no immediate comment from Maldives authorities, but Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) welcomed the change to Modi's itinerary.

On Twitter, MDP lawmaker Eva Abdulla thanked Modi "for siding with the democrats and sending a clear message... that abuses will not be tolerated by democratic India".

Protesters in Male have been angered by the treatment of Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader who stood down in 2012, who is being held on charges dating back to his sacking of one of the islands' top judges while he was president.

Nasheed's lawyers said he was been denied access to his defence team as he was brought before the court last week.

The United States and regional power India have voiced concern over the charges, which carry a jail sentence of more than 10 years, and the manner in which Nasheed was dragged roughly into court.

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