India brokers deal, Maldives parties agree for early polls

By Indo Asian News Service | Thursday, February 16, 2012 | 11:34:12 PM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

Male, Feb 16 (IANS) In a triumph of diplomacy, India Thursday succeeded in brokering a political deal in the Maldives, with all political parties agreeing to hold elections "as early as possible", paving the way for a political reconciliation in the island nation that plunged into turmoil after the resignation of president Mohamed Nasheed Feb 7.

Male, Feb 16 (IANS) In a triumph of diplomacy, India Thursday succeeded in brokering a political deal in the Maldives, with all political parties agreeing to hold elections "as early as possible", paving the way for a political reconciliation in the island nation that plunged into turmoil after the resignation of president Mohamed Nasheed Feb 7.

The breakthrough came after Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, the second senior Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives after the dramatic transfer of power, held talks with key political figures, including ousted president Mohamed Nasheed and his successor Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Mathai also met Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Thasmeen Ali of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Chief Justice of the Maldivian Supreme Court and the Speaker of the People''s Majlis.

After wide-ranging discussions, the feuding Maldivian parties agreed on a formulation that holds out the hope for an early return of peace and stability to the strategically located island nation.

"Consequent to my discussions, the following formulation was agreed upon by all the parties concerned; In addition, in the interests of national reconciliation and to encourage harmony between our citizens, the government of National Unity will hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said in the capital Male.

"The government of national unity will work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place including any necessary constitutional amendments," said Mathai.

"There was a degree of convergence on how matters should be taken forward. The parties also agree to the need for maintenance of constitutional order," said Mathai. "The president has come out with a roadmap for an inclusive political process which provides a very good basis for the parties to resolve their differences," stressed Mathai.

After initial missteps when India quickly recognized the regime of the new president Mohamed Waheed Hasan, India made up by brokering a broad-based political deal by conceding to the long-standing demand of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for early election.

"I reiterated our belief that there is need for a Maldivian led process for reconciliation and resolving political differences through constitutional means," he said.

Mathai, who was expected to return Thursday afternoon to host a reception for the media at his residence, had to prolong his stay in the Maldives by a few hours as a political settlement which India had been pushing for looked imminent.

"The MDP, on its part, committed itself to encouraging an atmosphere appropriate to the holding of elections. In this context, we understand that their decision to hold a rally tomorrow is being reconsidered," said Mathai.

With India stepping up its political outreach in the Maldives, Nasheed softened his stance saying he was now satisfied with New Delhi''s "more realistic approach" towards the crisis in the picture-pretty atoll nation.

"I now fully understand how things may be brought into a proper alignment and I am much more satisfied," Nasheed told reporters in Male after talks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai Wednesday night.

"I am more than satisfied with India and I believe that Indians have (in mind) the best interest of Maldivian people," said Nasheed, the country''s first democratically-elected president who resigned Feb 7 amid opposition protests and a police revolt.

Mathai, the second senior Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives after the dramatic transfer of power, held talks with key political figures, including Nasheed and his successor Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Only a few days ago, Nasheed had voiced disappointment with India''s stand after New Delhi quickly recognized the new president, barely 24 hours after Nasheed resigned amid controversial circumstances.

M. Ganapathi, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, went as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh''s special envoy last week to meet key political figures to underline the need for a broad-based coalition government.

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