Maldives election: beyond black and white
It is important for India to look beyond a simple Manichean - "our man, their man" - foreign policy when it comes to its neighbourhood. The Maldives was a test case for this new policy.comment Updated: Nov 19, 2013 22:49 IST
Any democratic election deserves applause. The result of the recent presidential polls in the Maldives has been accepted by the opposition candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, and the international community.
This strategically important island nation is still a nascent democracy and the fact that it has not had a peaceful presidential succession is nothing to be sneezed at as, it is surprisingly a difficult concept for a political culture to accept.
There is a strong sense that the Supreme Court's repeated interventions were about giving the winning candidate, Abdulla Yameen Gayoom, the opportunity to win the support of a third candidate. The votes that switched to him did so genuinely.
The machinations needed to ensure this switch, however, mean that this election is not above reproach. In fact, it will remain a cloud over President Yameen's regime and his actions will receive - and perhaps deserve - greater outside scrutiny.
There are many in New Delhi who feel that another term for Mr Nasheed would have been better for India's interest. After all, the former president was the author of 'India first' policy for his country.
But it is important for India to look beyond a simple Manichean - "our man, their man" - foreign policy when it comes to its neighbourhood. India's interest is better served by neighbours whose political leaders have a broad consensus that India should be their country's primary economic and security interest.
This provides stability in bilateral ties and, therefore, the relationship becomes more sustainable.
The past policy that looked for pro-and-anti India political players in a country was shortsighted. It means a rollercoaster neighbourhood policy that undermines the country's security and economic concerns.
The best way to get this goal is democracy. Nations that are persuaded to accept a certain line as opposed to being coerced are more likely to hold these views over time.
This holds true for political parties and electorates as well. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are neighbours that are close to an India consensus. Bangladesh and Nepal are closer to this than ever before.
The Maldives was a test case for this new policy. It is also a reminder that it requires a lot of care, caution and distance.