New Delhi: Seeking to minimise the damage caused by a senior Maldivian minister's remarks on Kashmir, the country's ambassador here Ahmed Mohamed has said it was a bilateral issue that should be "resolved amicably" between India and Pakistan, as he pitched for enhanced engagement between New Delhi and Male.
Admitting that there was an "environment of mistrust" between India and Maldives caused by a host of issues in recent years, the envoy said, "lack of engagement" was responsible for the current state of affairs, but asserted that the two countries should let "bygones be bygones".
In an interview to PTI, Mohamed also maintained that while there has been a steady steam of high-level visits from the island nation, the same was not reciprocated, an issue which many in Male feel is one of the factors for the drifting away in the relations.
Asked about the recent comments of a senior Maldivian minister bracketing the Kashmir situation with the current state of affairs in Maldives, the ambassador said, "It was a remark to emphasise the stand that the Maldives has been taking continuously and consistently since the 1970s. We have always maintained the position that it is a bilateral issue that needs to be resolved amicably between the two countries."
He further said, "We have always maintained the position that there needs no intervention by a third country. Hence, reiteration of our position and an example from the local context to state that the existing crisis in Maldives is an internal issue which need no foreign intervention."
Mohamed Shainee, a senior minister in President Abdulla Yameen's government, had reportedly told a group of visiting Indian reporters, "Why haven't we gone into the Kashmir issue...And asked to be (an) intermediary? Because they are internal matters...India should stay away from our issue.
"We are independent and capable of dealing with the situation. If we need help, we will let India know."
Reacting sharply, Indian officials had termed the remarks as "unfortunate".
Asserting that the two situations were not comparable, a senior official had said, "While the situation in Kashmir is due to state(Pakistan)-sponsored terrorism, the other is due to subversion of democracy."
Currently, India and Maldives have a strained relationship that has been caused by number of issues, including the signing of an FTA between Maldives and China amidst increasing proximity between Male and Beijing, and imposition of emergency by the Yameen government.
On why there was an "environment of mistrust" between India and Maldives, two neighbours that were once very close, the envoy said that though there was an understanding that there were issues which need to be resolved, but lack of engagement was responsible for current state of affairs.
"The need now is to start with a clean slate and let bygones be bygones," the envoy stressed, while making a strong pitch for a high-level visit from India. "It will make a lot of difference."
The Maldivian President has visited India twice apart from visits by other leaders, including the Maldivian foreign minster, he noted.
Mohamed also described India's strong statement on emergency situation in Maldives as "disappointing".
While the initial reaction, including the travel advisory was expected, but the fourth statement from New Delhi was not expected and Maldives' "displeasure" was conveyed to the Indian side, he said.
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, had said, "We are deeply dismayed that the Government of Maldives has extended the State of Emergency for a further 30 days. The manner in which the extension of the State of Emergency was approved by the Majlis in contravention of the Constitution of Maldives is also a matter of concern."
India has also been asserting that it was important to ensure that all democratic institutions in Maldives are allowed to function in a fair and transparent manner in accordance with the Constitution.