India on Friday finally broke silence over an incident where Maldives' chief government lawmaker was refused entry into Chennai.
The Villi-Maafannu MP Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik had gone to Chennai on an on arrival visa for a routine medical checkup on his sinus.
Despite making the same trip several times before, the Chennai Immigration had refused him entry. The outspoken lawmaker said he was made to wait over four hours at the airport before he was sent back but said he does not believe that he was deported.
“We are trying to find out how this happened,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar was quoted by the Indian media.
“We will share information when we have it.”
Maldives foreign ministry has taken up the matter with Indian ambassador in Male Akhilesh Mishra on Tuesday, while the Maldives embassy have raised it with officials in Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi Wednesday.
There had also been conflicting media reports saying that Mishra had been summoned by the Maldives foreign ministry over the incident. But neither side has confirmed nor denied the reports thus far. When asked police director Heena Waleed only said the incident has been brought to the attention of relevant Indian officials.
Nihan meanwhile had described the move as "bullying" and called on the relevant Maldives authorities to officially demand an explanation from their Indian counterparts over the incident.
"I think it still might be down to the bitterness over the GMR row. I don't think it has anything to do with sanctions [against the government]. I'm more inclined to think that it was bullying. The way they [Indian immigration] acted certainly pointed towards that. I want to know if this happened just for me or because I'm a government supporter," Nihan said.
Bilateral ties between the two countries remains at an all time low after Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom in February declared state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticised trials.
President Yameenon February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges along with the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.
President Yameen amid the crisis had singled out China, Saudi Arabia and Russia as Maldives' closest friends as he established strong relations with the global superpower since assuming office much to the dismay of India.
The Maldives opposition led by self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed has repeatedly called for India's military intervention to resolve the crisis in the island nation. More recently, the opposition has been pushing its neighbours to impose targeted sanctions against Yameen's regime.
When asked if India has in fact yielded to opposition pressure and imposed travel bans on Maldives government officials, Nihan insisted that it was unlikely but said the "primitive" actions of the Indian officials were extremely disappointing.
"Now we must find it if India has a list of individuals they have imposed targeted sanctions against so that we would know not to travel to such a country. I don't know if there is such a list because the they [Indian immigration] couldn't tell me anything," he added.