India’s deliberate ignorance towards Maldives

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Prakash Bansal, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Last week, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen visited New Delhi and reportedly concluded several bilateral agreements on issues ranging from taxation and tourism to defence and space research. The visit appeared to signal a changing, more welcoming policy by India towards the Maldives, apparently in response to China’s increasing influence in the region.

Unfortunately, this apparent shift seems to involve an increased reluctance on the part of Indian authorities to publicly engage with the ongoing human rights and rule of law crisis in the Maldives.

Only a week prior to the visit, Maldivian authorities had arrested 16 journalists who were peacefully protesting a number of recent measures undermining media freedom in the country. These included a draft criminal defamation bill that could be used to arbitrarily stifle free expression, including by the media. Disappointingly, even as Yameen arrived soon after these arrests, India remained conspicuously silent over this recent attack on fundamental freedoms in the Maldives

The discussions on the Maldives in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) earlier this year provide another example of India’s tolerance for human rights abuses in the Maldives. The CMAG is an intergovernmental body responsible for monitoring Member States’ compliance with the rule of law, judicial independence and human rights, as contained in the Harare Declaration.

Both India and the Maldives are bound by international human rights treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which oblige them to respect human rights and the rule of law. India is facing serious human rights concerns of its own within its boundaries, which must be addressed. At the same time, perpetuating a regional cooperative relationship devoid of discussion around these issues—especially when these principles and values are increasingly under attack—is irresponsible.

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