The piquant situation arising out of the former Maldives President, Mohd. Nasheed, seeking refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male remained unresolved for the second day on Thursday, despite a 40-minute conversation between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Maldivian counterpart.
India says it will not come between any judicial process underway in Maldives. At the same time, it does not want a court case against Mr. Nasheed to result in his conviction and disqualification from the September 7 elections. Maldives, on the other hand, says it will respect diplomatic norms by not trying to force Mr. Nasheed out but wants him to face the court and the due process of law.
Mr. Khurshid said he had a long conversation with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdul Samad Abdulla and in an indication of the stalemate that has developed, said both sides will continue to talk. “We are working on the background. I hope that we can come to a resolution of the present situation which is to the satisfaction of everybody. But it is still an ongoing process. It is difficult to say anything right now. I think we have had a good conversation. We have understood on both sides the totality of the circumstances,” he told journalists.
The political as well as the economic situation in Maldives has been in free fall since Mohd. Nasheed stepped aside in February last year and was replaced by his Vice President Mohd. Waheed. Mr. Nasheed later said his resignation was not voluntarily but an enquiry commission felt the transfer of power was as per the Maldivian Constitution. Since then radicals have made their voice heard with instances of hounding of Mr. Nasheed’s party colleagues, a drive against symbols considered un-Islamic and, finally, a high pitched campaign against the contract for Male airport to an Indian firm which Mr. Waheed cancelled.
India feels that the current impasse due to “one MP parties” holding political centre stage can only be resolved by elections. It is in this context that it wants the elections to be free and fair by ensuring that no presidential candidate from any major political party should be prevented from contesting. The charge against Mr. Nasheed entails imprisonment up to three years and he will be ineligible to contest if sentenced to a prison term of over one year.
On the other hand, Male points out that Nr. Nasheed is failing to respond to court summons and has sought refuge in the Indian High Commission to escape charges of high handedness against a judge during his tenure as President. Even Mr. Khurshid did not have any idea how long Mr. Nasheed will stay in the High Commission, which he entered on Wednesday on the plea that he wanted to meet the High Commissioner. He parried a question saying, “as and when the situation requires me to tell you and give you more information I will.”