Indian government too is worried with Yameen government's policy in the run-up to the September polls

India is emerging as a favourite punching bag for Maldives President Abdullah Yameen, as the country gets closer to the presidential polls -- in September –which he is desperate to win.

Besides stifling the Opposition, Yameen has decided to adopt an anti-India strategy as a poll plank in the backdrop of his loosening grip on Maldivian politics.

Yameen, despite the "right noises", is allegedly "pathologically" anti-Indian since he first became minister under his half-brother MA Gayoom and runs his politics on an anti-India plank, according to persons familiar with Maldivian politics. Further, with China making inroads in Maldives, Yameen is looking beyond India, according to experts on the subject. Also, unlike his predecessors, Yameen never considered India special.

The Indian government too is worried with Yameen government's policy in the run-up to the September polls.

"We have been closely following the evolving situation in the Maldives. The announcement of elections in the Maldives at a time when the democratic institutions including the Majlis and the judiciary are not allowed to function in a free and transparent manner is indeed a matter of concern," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

"We have urged the Government of Maldives to return to the path of democracy and ensure credible restoration of the political process and the rule of law before the elections are conducted. It is important that a conducive atmosphere is created for holding free and fair elections in the Maldives," Kumar suggested.

The slide in Indo-Maldives relations began almost three years ago, when President Yameen started treating his Opposition leaders as criminals and putting them behind bars with the help of a malleable judiciary.

"The worsening of Indo-Maldives relations truly began after the events of February 1, 2018, when the Supreme Court ordered the release of all political prisoners including former President and leader of the main Opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, Mohamed Nasheed; Jumhoree party leader Gasim Ibrahim, Aadalath party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and 6 other MPs stating that their trials violated the Maldives Constitution and International Law," explains Ravi Joshi who had formerly served in Indian High Commission in Male. It may be recalled that India criticised this move following which Yameen hardened his anti-India posture by diluting elements of bilateral partnership.

"The simple fact is that Yameen, fully encouraged by his Chinese friends, is pushing India to test the limits of our power...He has imprisoned practically everyone who opposes him and has been assiduously working against our interest from the day we condemned his arbitrary ways," said Joshi.

The Opposition though remains undeterred and the MDP's parliamentary leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is tipped to be the common candidate against Yameen.