This does not mean New Delhi should not support Indian firms when they venture overseas. That is a standard part of diplomacy and any State’s external policy. The easy part for a government is the facilitation of investment and trade. The difficult part is when, as happens more often than it should, the Indian State must use non-commercial leverage to help Indian firms overseas. This has become especially common because of the appetite for mineral resources and construction projects — and hefty cash reserves — of Chinese firms.
But there is a fine line to be drawn between being a modern East India Company and a nation seeking to level the field in a competitive global economy. Which is why India should be cautious in its Maldivian reaction. Going by present evidence, while GMR has a sound legal position, there are domestic political issues that the Male government is wrestling with — including a new airport tax and a loss of Maldivian shop jobs — that must also be considered. India should seek to resolve these under-the-horizon issues even while standing firm on the sanctity of the contract. Given the special ties between these two South Asian nations, it is a diplomatic failure that these were not resolved before the crisis came to a head.