Maldivian public has started questioning why former President Nasheed met Mr.Abishek Verma an Indian arms dealer in his recent trip to India.
Former President Nasheed visited India last February to take part in a conference organized by Jawaharlal Nehru University. During his visit, he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Both of these meetings were widely reported in the media.
However, his meeting with Indian billionaire Abhishek Verma was not covered by any media. Mr.Nasheed himself did not mention anything about the meeting. Mr.Verma is an arms dealer and is a suspect of many high profile corruption cases in India.
A picture of his meeting with former President Nasheed was shared on the Instagram account of Olialia World, a company owned by Mr.Verma.
In 2017, Mr.Verma expressed interest in developing an international airport in the Maldives. However, his plans never materialized. Later, he partnered with Maldivian businessman Mr.Ibrahim Didi (Simdi) and announced that they intend to invest in an integrated tourism project. Sources say that nothing came out of it. Some people suspect that Mr.Verma is planning to cut a deal with Mr.Nasheed to acquire Velana International Airport.
According to some sources, GMR Group is also pressuring the government of Maldives to handover Velana International Airport. Former President Nasheed’s administration contracted GMR to develop and managed the airport in 2010 but Dr.Waheed’s administration revoked the contract. The government of Maldives paid almost 300 million dollars as compensation to the GMR group for early cancellation of the contract. Senior officials of GMR, including the group’s GM were invited to the inauguration ceremony of President Solih. The Maldivian delegation which accompanied President Solih on his maiden trip to India also met with GMR officials. The government of Maldives never revealed the details of the discussions with GMR.
Though nothing is clear now, these deals depend largely on the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections.