There is much more energy this February in doing the right thing by the Maldivians, unlike last February when Delhi deemed the transfer of power or coup from Mohamed Nasheed to Mohamed Waheed to be legitimate, writes Jyoti Malhotra for the Business Standard.
Certainly, the ongoing struggle for power in Maldives constitutes one of the most interesting stories in South Asia. A former bureaucrat in the United Nations and the first Maldivian to have studied at Stanford University, Waheed inveigled himself to the top job last year by allowing the former Maldivian president, Abdul Maumoon Gayoom, to play puppeteer.
When Nasheed, a charismatic and democratically elected president, had a judge arrested for a repeatedly biased record in January 2012, Gayoom had Waheed waiting in the wings to replace Nasheed. The Maldivian security forces played their part by overthrowing Nasheed.
A whole year later, Delhi has sought to make amends. Nasheed was invited to visit India on an official visit earlier this month, when he met National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon. On his return from Argentina, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid has been in regular touch with him, as well as other actors in Maldives. Last week, the ministry of external affairs stated the Waheed government should hold a free, fair and credible election in September, implying Nasheed should be allowed to participate in it; if he was arrested, he would be effectively eliminated from the election.
Rumours are afoot that India’s outgoing high commissioner, D M Mulay, was summoned to the Maldivian foreign office and scolded for allowing external interference inside the high commission, a reference to hosting Nasheed. A second and more important rumour is about a possible compromise between Nasheed and the judiciary; either charges could be withdrawn against Nasheed or these could be deferred until after the elections are held on September 7 or Nasheed could be tried in absentia and sentenced.
Some say the Indian government could press Waheed and the power behind the throne, former dictator Gayoom, to drop charges against Nasheed because they have seen through the game both have played over the past year. India and the world know Maldives has barely enough money to import a month’s worth of foodstuff and other essential commodities. The idea of economic sanctions has sometimes been known to work wonders.