India warns Maldives not to risk ties over airport row

In a strong warning to Maldives, India Tuesday said it does not expect any arbitrary and coercive measures to be taken by Malé on the GMR airport contract issue pending legal processes and cautioned that any such action would hurt bilateral relations.

The warning came on a day the Maldivian foreign minister called his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid to explain his government's view to take over the Malé airport despite a stay order obtained by GMR.

"The Maldivian government should not allow the situation to go out of hand. In this context, it is expected that no arbitrary and coercive measures should be taken pending the outcome of the legal process under way. Resort to any such actions would inevitably have adverse consequences on relations between India and Maldives," the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said.

Earlier in the day, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdul Samad Abdullah told Khurshid that the decision to take over the airport was taken as the financial implications of continuing with GMR would have burdened Maldives heavily for years to come.

Abdullah explained his government's projections that it would end up paying GMR over 1 billion Maldivian rufiyaa over the next 25 years to run the airport, instead of generating revenue from it. He also said that President Mohamed Waheed would soon write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue.

India, however, stuck to its stance that a legal solution has to be found. Khurshid is learnt to have told his Maldivian counterpart that he hoped the decision has not given a sense of "drifting away" in the bilateral relationship.

India also expressed its concern over reports of "continuing violence and intimidation against elected representatives" as well as expressions of radical sentiments in Maldives. "There is need to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and principles and tenets of democracy are maintained. We will continue to monitor the situation closely," the MEA spokesperson said.

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