Former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, who has taken refuge at the Indian Embassy after a court ordered his arrest, has called on Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed to step down and call an election.
The political crisis in the Maldives apexed when former President Mohamed Nasheed, ousted a year ago amid street violence, took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male, the capital, on Wednesday, February 13.
Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2008, ending the 30-year rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The 45-year-old opposition leader, who belongs to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), entered the Indian embassy when a warrant for his arrest was issued after failing to appear in court for a trial hearing over allegations that he had illegally detained a judge in his final days as president in 2012. Violent protests over Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed's detention last year prompted Nasheed to resign from office in what his supporters refer to as a coup.
Though the Maldives government stated on Thursday, February 14, that Nasheed would not be arrested because the warrant against him had expired, he said he did not have faith in the political system. His spokesman Abdul Gafoor told the Associated Press news agency the threat level was high for Nasheed and that he should stay at the embassy: "The party is advising him not to step outside."
India's Ministry of External Affairs released a statement stressing concern over the political instability in the Maldives and the need for presidential candidates to be able to compete in elections set for September 7. If Nasheed is found guilty, he could be barred from running in those elections.
"What we are witnessing in Male is collusion between the political class and judiciary to stop Nasheed from contesting the elections," T. C. Kartikeyan of the National Maritime Foundation, who has worked on security challenges for Maldives, told DW. "In these troubled times, India must play a positive role."
"As a close and friendly neighbor, India has expressed concern over the ongoing political instability in Maldives and called upon the government and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections," an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
India plays role of broker
New Delhi said preventing Nasheed's participation in the elections "would call into question" the integrity of the electoral process, perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives.
"The events of the past year - the mass arrests, police brutality, the politically motivated trials - demonstrate that Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election," said Nasheed in recent statement posted on the website of his political party.
"Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office," he added.
Insiders in India's foreign office said it had opted to side with the former Maldives president and was hoping that the political crisis would see a quick resolution.
"Since presidential elections have been announced for September 7, the court case against Nasheed has acquired strong political overtones. Efforts are on to broker a deal between the ex-president and the government," a top security official told DW on conditions of anonymity.
"This crisis will end soon and with an amicable settlement."