New Delhi, February 20 (newsin.asia): Sources in the Indian Defense Ministry told the leading Indian news magazine India Today that Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not have any discussion on the Maldives with the Maldivian opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed in Bengaluru recently as claimed by the latter in his tweet of February 18.
It was a chance encounter on the sidelines of a seminar organized by a leading Chennai-based media house and the two only exchanged pleasantries, the sources told the magazine.
“India doesn’t want to be seen to be interfering in favor of one and against another in the Maldives, and importantly, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman didn’t have any brief to hold talks with Nasheed,” the sources added.
Defense Minister Sitharaman, who normally would know about troop movements, deployment and at the tactical level perhaps even ambushes laid by security forces, was “ambushed” by the former President of Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, on the sidelines of a seminar, the magazine commented.
Top Ministry of Defense sources in New Delhi, however, told India Today that the purported meeting referred to by the former Maldivian President was an “unscheduled, chance meeting in Bengaluru at the sidelines of a function organised by a well-known Chennai-headquartered media house. Further, there was no discussion on the situation in the Maldives.”
After addressing the seminar Defense Minister Sitharaman, the editors, senior members of the media house were having a cup of tea in an adjoining room when President Nasheed, also an invitee, approached the minister. Only courtesies were exchanged after which the minister left for the airport to return to New Delhi.
But on February 18, the former President who now lives in exile in Colombo, Sri Lanka, tweeted a picture of two meeting and said: “Pleasure to meet and brief Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman on the situation in the Maldives.”
“Social media post by the former Maldivian President is uncalled for,” the source said.
India Today’s efforts to reach President Nasheed for his comments failed to evoke any response.
On February 5, 2018, the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom Yameen declared a 15-day emergency after the country’s Supreme Court quashed terrorism charges against nine leading opposition figures, including Nasheed. Soon, Maldivian security forces swept across Male detaining two Supreme Court judges.
Former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed has publicly asked India to intervene militarily. Earlier, in 1988, India had sent its troops to prevent the then government of Maldives from being overthrown by a coup staged by Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries.
This time, New Delhi, however, has maintained a stoic silence. New Delhi has conveyed to the Maldives that it wants democracy restored and the emergency lifted.
(The featured image at the top show Maldivian opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed having a chance encounter with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman)