Maldives 'sorry' for anti-India controversy

Maldives 'sorry' for anti-India controversy

Maldives 'sorry' for anti-India controversy

Seeking to mollify New Delhi after intemperate anti-India remarks by a key presidential aide, Maldives has given profound apology as a USD 514-million airport project carried out by Indian company GMR became a target of political football here.

Immediately after the remarks were made by Abbas Adil Riza at a rally here, Maldives President Mohamed Waheed told the Indian High Commissioner that he will take steps to "rectify" the wrong, official sources told PTI today. Riza, at the rally on Friday night, called Indian envoy Dnyaneshwar Mulay a "traitor" and "an enemy of Maldives".

"A diplomat's job is to work for his country and people and not to protect the interests of one private company," Riza, a political appointee, had said striking an aggressive posture at the rally organised in protest against the leasing of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to Indian infrastructure major GMR by ex-President Mohamed Nasheed's regime.

"He is a traitor and enemy of Maldives and Maldivian people. We don't want these kind of diplomats on our soil." In a damage-control exercise later, a statement posted on the official website of President Waheed said the government of Maldives disassociates itself from the remarks made by Riza and some other government officials, saying they did not reflect the views of the government. In a statement, the Indian High Commission said Mulay has condemned the remarks of Riza, asserting they were "against diplomatic protocol".

Mulay also said the government of Maldives has been told that settling issues of huge mutual interest cannot be done on public space or on stage. Riza later claimed that he had not called Mulay a "traitor" and had just said that "we have a new demand when GMR goes, Mulay should also go."

"I had said people who are supposed to protect highest Indian interests in Maldives are not doing that. They have taken bribe from GMR. They are traitors. I did not take any names...," he said.

However, Riza further said that had Mulay "understood the sentiments of the people things would not have reached this level. People have given six days to the government. What can we do in six days?

"By taking his name (while demanding that he should go back) I tried to reduce this steam. Indian ambassador is trying to defend an illegal agreement."

Noting that the new Government in Maldives has raised some issues particularly in respect of GMR, the Indian High Commission said they can be addressed through negotiations and if talks fail this country could go ahead with arbitration.

"The whole thing is in arbitration stage. If arbitration fails they (GMR and the government of Maldives) could find mutually accepted recourse either by going to the court of law or may be finding other mechanism available.

"We have told the government of Maldives that settling issues of huge mutual interest cannot be done on public space or on stage. This has to be done through discussion." the Indian High Commission statement said.

The statement said it was also notable in this regard that President of Maldives on assumption of charge in 2012 gave an assurance to India and subsequently during his visit to New Delhi he assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that all the Indian investments, including the GMR, which happened to be the largest foreign investor in the country, will be protected and safeguarded.

"Similarly, all the agreements signed by the previous governments would also be safeguarded as such we have expressed our concern in very strong words to the government of Maldives. And we have also conveyed that India would safeguard the country's interests," including those related to it investment, it added.

The statement said the Indian government has on regular basis engaged the Maldivian government on all issues of mutual interest. 

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