Senior officials here heaved a sigh of relief that the two-month-long political confrontation in the Maldives appeared to be getting peacefully resolved despite belligerent statements from a section of the Islamists against Mohd. Nasheed who resigned as the country's chief executive earlier in the day.
Having been in touch with all sections of the political spectrum, New Delhi would like mainstream parties to form a national government under Mr. Nasheed's deputy who has now been sworn in President.
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For India which has close security and trade links with Maldives and is now poised to provide greater developmental assistance after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit during the SAARC summit, at least half-a-dozen positives emerged from the sudden turn of events Monday night. They are: Maldivians are themselves managing the problem, the situation is well under control with no incident of prolonged violence having been reported, the resolution is taking place under the Constitution, India's advice was considered fair and helpful and there was no repeat of the attempted coup in 1988 when foreign mercenaries tried to overthrow the government.
The tense and, at times, acerbic standoff between the government and the Opposition worsened after a section of the police met the Police Commissioner and “called into question the wisdom of continuing with the present situation.” This tipped the balance in a deteriorating situation where even some of Mr. Nasheed's closest supporters had started doubting his approach, especially after the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdullah Mohamed (released after Mr. Nasheed quit).
After hearing many of the actors involved in the stand-off between Mr. Nasheed and the Opposition, New Delhi too felt a coalition government would provide Maldives greater stability at a time when it was trying to put in place an alternative to its overdependence on tourism.
Officials here discounted suggestions that India had put all its eggs in the Mr. Nasheed-led Maldives Democratic Party basket. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after his address to the Maldivian Parliament last year had met all Majlis Members and especially spent time with the prominent ones among them, including the Leader of the Opposition, they pointed out. “All Maldivians are welcome. We never denied meeting them,” they said.
The Indian reading of the situation is that there was an increase in the level of agitation on religion-related issues, especially since December 23 (when Mr. Nasheed held a rally and took on religious parties). Protests were also taking place on other religion-related related issues such as the flights arriving with Israeli tourists, improper social conduct on island resorts and even a mob attack on gift by Pakistan on grounds that it insulted Islamic tenets. But public disapproval gathered mass after the arrest of Judge Abdullah. Orders passed by the Supreme Court seeking his immediate release and Mr. Nasheed's failure to do alienated one prominent section of his supporters — conscientious lawyers leading to the resignation of the SAARC's first woman Secretary General.
After clashes took place and a posse of policemen joined the supporters, the Opposition was very categorical that some sort of change in situation must take place, said officials. With India gently nudging the process, talks were held (disrupted at one time by overenthusiastic Mr. Nasheed supporters), a general agreement has been reached on the formation of a national government of both the ruling party and opposition legislators.
“There is a general agreement that all political parties must have a certain amount of representation,” said officials here while hoping that this is how politics would run the course in the Maldives in the immediate future. “It is very important that the issue is being resolved within the norms of the Constitution of Maldives and through political dialogue without resorting to violence,” they added.