New Delhi: Eleven days after dramatically seeking shelter at the Indian diplomatic mission, former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, equally dramatically, walked out of the High Commission today.
Hours after his party informed NDTV of the possibility of an end to the stand-off, Mr Nasheed left the mission and addressed a press conference in the capital Male. Dressed in his trademark black and white semi-formals and a yellow tie (his party colours), the ex-President said: "I've come out with the understanding that I will be able to conduct peaceful political activity."
Thanking India, he added, "I believe that even on issues we disagree on, we can reach a compromise with the Maldivian government."
Mr Nasheed also hinted at a deal that could have prompted him to leave his diplomatic refuge, saying, "Delaying my trial till after the elections, in my opinion, does not violate any citizen's rights."
The Maldives denies any deal
The Maldives Government was quick in rejecting reports of a deal. The presidential spokesperson told NDTV there is no truth in reports of a delay or dropping of the case and trial. That's something the country's Prosecutor General has repeatedly insisted on in the last few days. Current President Mohamed Waheed's spokesperson, Masood Imad, also told NDTV that though Mr Nasheed didn't face any imminent arrest since two warrants had expired, this was a matter between the former President and the judiciary.
Despite Mr Nasheed's accusations that he's being tried in a 'kangaroo court', the government has always maintained that the judiciary is independent of the executive.
India plays mediator
India has played a key role in brokering at least an end to the stand-off for now. A four-member foreign ministry delegation has met all 'stakeholders' in the Maldives over the last four days - even extending its trip.
In Delhi, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was quick to react, saying, "Our desire that the situation remains in control and gets resolved seems to have gone in the right direction. Our intention and effort has been so that things remain under control."
But he stressed, "We look forward to the Maldives having free, fair and inclusive elections and such support that they seek and need and we are in a position to give to help them strengthen their position towards such an election is something we are always willing to offer."
Mr Khurshid was diplomatically subtle in stressing India's role, adding, "We are glad that the situation has found a resolution by itself. Whatever effort we could put in we did and I would acknowledge all stakeholders and the Government of Maldives for their positive attitude in the course of these discussions."
Diplomatic refuge from arrest
Mr Nasheed had taken shelter in the Indian High Commission since February 13, with riot police initially stationed outside armed with an arrest warrant issued by a lower court. He faces charges of using the army when he was President to illegally detain a judge in January 2012.
Weeks later, after a police mutiny backed by some elements of the military and the opposition, Mr Nasheed resigned and his Vice President, Mohamed Waheed, took over. The ex-President accuses his successor of overthrowing him and charging him in the case, which his party claims is politically motivated. If convicted, Mr Nasheed will be barred from contesting the September 7 presidential polls.
What next in Maldives' cross-currents?
Whether Mr Nasheed left his diplomatic refuge because of backroom deals or whether he felt he had gained enough mileage is something that will become clearer over the days to come. After all, being holed up in the mission meant a full-stop to his campaigning door-to-door and island-to-island as he has been doing over the months. In fact, straight from his press conference he marched on Male's streets with his supporters.
His party insists that attempts are being made - by hook or crook - to stop him from contesting. The Maldivian Democratic Party even insists Mr Nasheed's life is in danger. The government's position is that even an ex-President has to obey the law of the land and it has no hand in the case against him.
But, what's important and seems to have changed from almost exactly a year ago is that India is pulling its regional-power muscle in a tiny country with a population of just about four lakhs - even if it's doing so behind closed doors. But, Saturday's turn of events - as events over the last year have proved - make only one thing certain. That days, weeks and months ahead of the September elections promise to throw up even more interesting developments.