New Delhi’s policies on the Maldives continue to display elements of infantilism, writes Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray for the Eurasia Review.
“A series of blunders since the past one year pose the real danger of alienating Maldives for good.
Waheed’s ready acceptance by New Delhi vide a swift recognition extended by the Prime Minister’s Office had much to do with the ‘pro-India’ certificate he received from then Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar Mulay.
Mulay wrote to the MEA that Waheed’s pro-India stand “is not in question” since he “has not missed a single function in the India House”. Ironically, the same Mulay, within months, came under attack from the Maldives government for his advocacy role supporting GMR.
If Mulay’s assessment of the nature of the Waheed regime was all wrong, Delhi has not fared any better since his departure. All its actions ever since it refused to protect the interests of a private company, GMR, (although the MEA in its country brief on Maldives continues to flag GMR’s taking over of the Male Airport in 2010), resemble a crying baby syndrome, not that of a nation that wants to deepen its engagements with its neighbourhood.
New Delhi’s reactions in the past couple of months have included: freezing major aid promised to the country in the recent past, toughening visa regulations allowing only limited number of visas to the Maldivians seeking medical treatment in India, refusing the Maldives Foreign Minister to set up a meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister, and doing away with the special privileges accorded to the Maldivian vessels visiting Indian ports.
In the second week of January, the Indian High Commission went a step further to issue an 11-point list of grievances to the Maldives media. The HC accused the Maldives government of withholding the passports and restricting the travel of Indian nationals, refusing to renew visas in a timely fashion, exploiting Indian workers, and failing to investigate threat calls to Indian diplomats. In response, Maldives has tried playing the China card.
Active engagement and not argumentative detachment needs to be India’s policy in Maldives. Former President Nasheed, who has consistently remained pro-India in spite of New Delhi’s indifference, has called for a caretaker government to oversee the Presidential polls due in the next three to six months. An election under the present regime, he justifiably fears, could be unfair and to his disadvantage. New Delhi must ensure that the polls are fair and not rigged.
Electoral victory for the pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party remains New Delhi’s only hope. Any other scenario would further push New Delhi’s already sinking influence in that county to the point of oblivion. And the Chinese would not miss the chance.