By B. Raman
The unfortunate cancellation by the Government of Mohammad Waheed of the Maldives of the contract given to a consortium led by the GMR, an Indian company, for the running of the Ibrahim Nassir International Airport highlights our loss of tradional goodwill with a section of the Maldivian political class due to perceptions that India was trying to take sides in the political dispute between former President Mohammed Nasheed, who resigned under controversial circumstances in the beginning of this year, and his opponents led by Mr.Mohammad Waheed in order to facilitate his return to power.
So long as the Maldivian authorities were sensitive to our national security interests, we followed a policy of benign non-involvement in internal political issues. Our national security interests in the Maldives had primacy over our economic and commercial interests. The Government of India carefully avoided creating any impression of backing any Indian business company operating in the Maldives.
The traditional goodwill enjoyed by us for nearly three decades in the Maldives since 1979 when the Government of India responded positively to a request from Male for assistance in revamping their national security set-up started dissipating when our perceived backing for the democracy movement of Mr.Nasheed and the jettisoning of the policy of benign non-involvement in internal political matters after Mr.Nasheed became the President created perceptions of Indian political favourites. As a result of our open and enthusiastic embrace of Mr.Nasheed, he came to be perceived as India’s prop in Male. Many of his decisions in commercial and national security matters, which were favourable to India, were projected by his opponents and detractors as quid pro quo for India’s support to him.
After his exit from power, elements associated with the successor Government have targeted his decisions which they viewed as his quid pro quo to India.We have already lost considerable goodwill in political circles in the Maldives.The relations between the two countries have got mixed up with local partisan politics.
To stop a further erosion of the goodwill, it is important to make a mid-course correction in our Maldivian policy based on a reversion to the past policy of benign non-involvement in internal political matters, maintaining cordial relations with all political forces without any political favourites, avoidance of undue interest in promoting the interests of any Indian business house and restoration of primacy to national security matters.
Maldives is also a lesson that we should avoid moralizing political postures like promoting democracy.