In Maldives, India’s best bet is to wait, watch

SC

The government had not anticipated a Maldivian victory at the Singapore Court of Appeal. The majority wisdom in South Block was that GMR was on sound legal footing after the injunction from the Singapore High Court. So, the line went out to the Maldivian political leadership that it should find a legal solution instead of ramming down a political decision on GMR.

Wrong call, again. Maybe New Delhi should have waited for the appeals process to be over before conveying this to the Maldives. Insiders say Salman Khurshid's legal antenna had gone up on this, and he had told his aides to be careful because foreign courts cannot overrule the sovereign decision of another country.

The fact is New Delhi has been framing the issue in political terms while taking the public line that it wants to tread the legal course, assuming that the law would rule on its side. That did not happen and now Male is playing back the same argument to New Delhi — that accept the law. And India must.

There are many voices who seek to "teach Maldives a lesson", but it would be unwise to escalate matters in the name of national prestige. Maldives is of strategic importance to India and we cannot possibly lose sight of the bigger picture.

There are many levers at India's disposal, starting with not releasing the annual budgetary support of $25 million or softly choking the supply of daily goods to the island country. Next could be leaning on the country's India-dependent security apparatus and so on.

But any such move will only strengthen the current political regime there, it will allow them to knock at doors of other powers for economic support and worse, make India a divisive political issue in Maldives.

India faltered with its chances to exert influence much earlier in the day and has to now face the consequences. The best bet is to wait for the arbitration process to work out the amount Maldives will have to pay GMR for terminating the contract. That should change facts on the ground, providing India the opportunity to revisit the issue afresh.

... contd.

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