Denying reports that it was ignoring India, the Maldivian government on Thursday clarified that President Abdullah Yameen's special envoy was supposed to visit New Delhi on his first stop, before flying to Islamabad, but had to cancel it following the Indian government's request.
Yameen has already dispatched special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to brief them about the deepening political crisis in the country.
According to the statement, Male was told the date was not suitable for India's leadership and that it was "grossly misleading" to say that the Maldives bypassed India.
Indian government sources also said "there is a set protocol to send an envoy" and India has "not been informed of the objective of sending the envoy".
"China's aid to the Maldives has no political strings attached and does not harm the Maldives' sovereignty and independence at all, still less jeopardize security in the Indian Ocean", Geng said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
The diplomats, based in neighboring Sri Lanka but also accredited to the Maldives, arrived in Male after the regime said it was open to foreign observers visiting the country. Indian government sources in New Delhi later confirmed that the request for the Maldivian special envoy's visit had been turned down.
Three ministers have been sent out to the three capitals to "provide updates on the current situation". "China thinks that the current situation and dispute in the Maldives are its internal affairs", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said. Minister of foreign affairs Mohamed Asim has this evening departed to Pakistan. Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mohamed Shainee is going to Saudi Arabia.
India had earlier said it was "disturbed" over the Maldivian government's refusal to abide by verdict of the Supreme Court there on the release of Opposition leaders as well as the suspension of constitutional rights there. New Delhi had said this should be done in the "spirit of democracy and rule of law".
The island nation, which has seen several political crises since the ouster of its first democratically-elected president Mohamed Nasheed in 2012, plunged into chaos last Thursday when the apex court ordered the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials were "politically motivated and flawed".
Eventually he declared a state of emergency, took away the powers of the judiciary and parliament to impeach him and arrested the chief justice and another judge.
On Monday, former President of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Chief Justice Saeed, Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed and Judicial administrator Hassan Saeed were arrested by the security forces after Yameen declared a state of emergency in the country.
China, Nasheed said, "is busy buying up the Maldives", adding that this year's presidential election could be the last chance to extricate the Maldives from increasing Chinese influence.
The team also met with the leaders of the ruling party.
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