‘GMR deal row will hurt India, Maldives ties’

Two days after Maldives took a decision to terminate GMR's airport contract in Male, India continued to seethe below the surface with South Block making it clear that it's "inevitable" for the move to "affect bilateral relations".

It's learnt that this sentiment was also reflected in Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay's first meeting with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdul Samad Abdullah after the crisis. Mulay, who has been facing flak from all quarters in Maldives and some in Delhi for not handling the situation properly, discussed the recent development with Abdullah.

According to top government officials, South Block is extremely "concerned" that the current climate of agitation has taken a political colour in Maldives, using the GMR issue as a "lever".

Mulay has come under the shadow following rapid deterioration in the ties. Insiders revealed that a decision has been taken to move him out of Maldives to New York as Consul General by February. He has, incidentally, already completed his term in Male.

While New Delhi has been assured by the Maldivian government about the safety of Indians in the island country, India feels that the attitude of the Mohammad Waheed government will work as a deterrent for potential Indian and international investors.

However, New Delhi is not confirming Chinese hand in the power play in Male, although there have been a quiet admission in South Block of "many interests at work" in the island nation.

It is learnt that Waheed, during his visit in May, had assured the Indian leadership that he will resolve the GMR issue in a manner that will silence domestic critics but not derail Indian investment in that country.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met the Maldivian Foreign Minister recently and informed him that GMR was ready to send its lawyers and accountants to settle the issues. The offer was reiterated during the two phone calls Khurshid made on the eve of the contract cancellation. However, Male did not respond to these efforts of reconciliation.

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