Male/New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) Two Indian naval ships were cruising about 40 km off the Maldives coast on the morning of Feb 7, 2012, hours before then president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted from power. But he decided not to seek India's intervention, a Maldivian newspaper reported.
This has been revealed to a Maldives parliamentary panel by former defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu.
Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, did not want India to be involved in the day's dramatic and violent developments that saw him step down following opposition protests.
The then foreign minister Ahmed Naseem "had suggested that the Indian government would extend its assistance", Tholhath told the parliament's Government Accountability Committee that is reviewing an enquiry report into the "transfer of power" on Feb 7 last year, according to a report in the Haveeru daily, a leading newspaper in the Maldives.
"President said no. We cannot allow India to intervene in this matter. I will never agree to that. So it cannot be done," Haveeru quoted Tholhath as telling the panel. "Two ships were operating quite close, around 23 miles off Maldives. But the president was insistent. He didn't want to seek any assistance from India in the matter."
Then vice president Mohamed Waheed took over as president after Nasheed was made to step down.
Asked if the report about the presence of two Indian naval ships was true, an Indian external ministry official declined to respond. "We do not need to respond to anything that is being written," the official told IANS, and added "We will check the matter" of the naval ships.
Tholhath added that Nasheed was the one who knew that the Indian navy ships were in Maldivian territory, which could have been told to him by Naseem, the daily added.
When the parliamentary panel chair and Thoddoo constituency MP Ali Waheed asked him why the Indian ships were so close to Maldives, Tholhath said "I really don't know."
"I had no information on those ships. All I know is it was only on that morning I found out about those ships," he said.
"There was no confirmation that the ships were in fact so close to Maldives. I don't know any other details."
In response to a question of how to confirm the presence of the Indian ships on Feb 7, Tholhath said "the Maldives coast guard can verify it."
In August last year, the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), constituted by the Maldives government to probe the "transfer of power" of Feb 7, said in its report that it was not a coup.
It also concluded that the transfer of power to Waheed was "legal and constitutional" and that Nasheed's resignation was voluntary without any coercion or intimidation.
Nasheed, who after his ouster visited various countries, such as the US and India, had claimed he had faced a threat to his life and that the power transfer was actually a coup.