New Delhi: Upset with Maldives for unilaterally deciding to terminate the $500 million GMR airport project in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said it was a major setback in the bilateral relations of the two countries. Speaking to CNN-IBN, the Union Minister said that India has communicated its concern to Maldives but wishes that the issue doesn't cause bitterness between them.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
CNN-IBN: Has the bilateral relation been affected?
Salman Khurshid: We have expressed our concern and it is a very strong concern. Of course, it has come as a major setback and we've communicated this as a major setback but what we don't want is any further spin of this setback causing bitterness between us and causing irretrievable damage to our relationship. I think politically it is important that Maldives handles this matter with sincerity and transparency keeping in mind the value of our relationship. I think that should not be undermined by any mischievous person who wants to use this as an excuse to create a gulf between them and us. I hope that that doesn't happen. Maldives has been an important partner for us and we would want it to remain so. But in a partnership, there are responsibilities. We have a right to expect that those responsibilities will be fulfilled.
CNN-IBN: Are you concerned as well about the safety of Indian nationals?
Salman Khurshid: We are here to look after our people and I hope that the Maldivian government will also fulfil its promise that no harm of any kind, no unwholesome behaviour or conduct will be inflicted upon Indians who have contributed enormously to the economy of Maldives.
A diplomatic row is brewing between India and Maldives after the latter terminated the contract with GMR, given by the previous regime, for developing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) at Male. The Maldivian government has justified it saying the decision was taken purely on legal grounds.
Speaking to CNN-IBN earlier, Maldivian Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor had said that it was impossible to carry on with the contract. "The contract was terminated purely on legal grounds. We came to the conclusion that it's a void contract. It will be impossible to carry on with the contract," she had said.
However, EVP and Group Head, Corporate Communications, GMR, Arun Bhagat has termed it unlawful. "We won the bid fair and square. It's been two years since we've been operating the airport. We've modernised the existing airport which is good for the country, the number of passengers are also up. We are paying higher revenue share to the country which is again good for them because they can fund many programmes for the citizens of Maldives. Somebody's really got to tell me what's wrong with what we've done here. We are going through the letter in detail and obviously we'll seek legal remedy," he said.