‘This is the biggest shakedown in Maldivian history. Since the targeting of GMR, other multinational corporations have started selling their assets’

Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, speaks to Manu Pubby on the Malé airport controversy involving infrastructure major GMR. Excerpts:

As an old friend of India, what in your opinion is the way for New Delhi to amicably resolve the current situation that is a big business and investment setback?

Mohamed Nasheed: It is unfortunate that India so quickly moved to recognise the transfer of power after the February 7 coup. In my view, our present difficulties stem from the decision to legitimise Mohamed Waheed's rule. It is tempting to hope everything will turn out amicably. But this regime was always going to turn sour — one need only look at the individuals involved and the manner in which they assumed power. The solution to this crisis, then and now, is a free and fair presidential election in which all parties are allowed to freely compete.

India has made it clear in its statements that the cancellation of GMR's contract originates from political reasons. In such a situation, what is your advice to India?

MN: Stability in the Indian Ocean depends on a strong India. India must make it clear, especially to young democracies such as the Maldives, that there are international rules and norms all nations must adhere to. Furthermore, India must not appease bigotry, ultra-nationalism or religious extremism.

What do you and the Maldivian Democratic Party think is the real reason behind GMR's ouster? Is it a genuine case of overwhelming public support for the decision, or does the government have a deeper motive?

MN: The government's targeting of GMR does not enjoy widespread support. And there is certainly no legal basis for its actions, which are in clear breach of international law. The government is also acting contrary to the nation's economic interest because it is putting in jeopardy the completion of the new airport terminal, which is a crucial piece of infrastructure. The reason the government has targeted GMR in particular, and India more broadly, is because they are trying to whip up xenophobia and religious extremism. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — whose Progressive Party of Maldives is propping up Waheed's regime — has always used hatred and fear as his modus operandi. Engaging in hate speech against India allows those in power to suppress the people and control the economy because it provides cover for their actions.

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