Maldives crisis: India sends special envoy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was his sincere hope that the matter can be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

New Delhi: As Maldives plunged into a deeper crisis, India on Friday established contact with top political leaders of the island nation with Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh sending his special envoy and favouring resolution of the problem through dialogue.

Singh dispatched as his special envoy M Ganapathi, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, to listen to all voices and assess the situation in Maldives after the ouster of Mohammad Nasheed as Presidentearlier this week.
Dr Singh said it was his sincere hope that the matter can be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

"It will be our effort to use our influence in that direction," the Prime Minister said.

Nasheed had quit as president on Tuesday making way for Vice President Mohammad Waheed Hassan but later claimed that he was forced to quit with guns all around him and hit the streets with his supporters demanding he be reinstated to the top post.

Ganapathi met Nasheed and his successor Waheed and conveyed India`s willingness to assist in early installation of a national unity government in the Indian Ocean atoll.

Waheed Hassan is understood to have assured India that he would not indulge in a witch-hunt while dealing with Nasheed. Government sources said India believed that Nasheed was not ousted in a coup, as claimed by him, but had stepped
down owing to weeks of violent protests.

They dubbed Nasheed`s current stand as a "re-construction of events" 24 hours after stepping down as president and after a meeting of his Maldives Democratic Party.

The sources also pointed out that Nasheed did not enjoy majority in Parliament and had to put on hold some of his decisions because of lack of number.

As concerns mounted over Nasheed`s impending fate and a possible arrest, UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco arrived here for talks with the new government.

Late last night, Nasheed had addressed thousands of peaceful supporters and sought a fresh election to settle the political upheaval.

"He (Hassan) must step down and then the Speaker of the Majlis (Parliament) can hold elections within two months," he said.

Earlier in the day, the US said it recognised the government of Nasheed`s successor Hassan, dealing a major blow to the toppled President who has been questioning the legitimacy of the new regime.

The US sought clarification on the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power in the country, though it said it would work with the new government.

When asked if the US recognised the new government, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We do".

A disappointed Nasheed said he was "very unhappy" over Washington`s move to legitimise his successor.

"This is not being helpful. They should really look at what has happened," said Nasheed who has insisted that his former vice president was complicit in the conspiracy to topple him.

Maldives` first democratically-elected president had said that he was forced to resign as gun-wielding military men threatened that they would resort to using arms if he did not.

The major developments in the tourist hotspot came after three weeks of protests that escalated over an order to arrest a Criminal Court judge on charges of misconduct for favouring opposition figures.

The protests came to a boil after police joined a mutiny and refused to take action against opposition protesters.

Fernandez-Taranco, who is expected to meet both sides, had asked everyone to "remain calm and prevent any type of violence".

On Wednesday night, a pro-Nasheed rally had turned violent and police vehicles and police offices were reportedly torched. The opposition figures had also complained of a violent crackdown against them.

At today`s rally, a large number of soldiers and police personnel in riot gear were deployed near the mosque where Nasheed and his supporters offered prayers before marching out.

Nasheed said that several members of his party had been arrested on the island of Addhu.

While an arrest warrant was issued yesterday against Nasheed, the government has so far not moved to implement it.

"There are 14 charges being brought against the (toppled) president. God knows what the charges are," said Ahmed Naseem, who was also ousted as foreign minister.

Both the new President Hassan and the Army have refuted Nasheed`s claims of a coup.

Nasheed, a former political prisoner, came to power in 2008 after successfully challenging the 30-year-old autocratic regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.