NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump spoke yesterday, discussing the crisis in Maldives. The two “pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The fact that Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has assumed a virtual dictatorship and imprisoned at least two of the country’s Supreme Court Judges is certainly not something that either India or US can ignore. The increased Chinese activity in the country along with its support for Yameen while usurps unrestricted powers in the Indian Ocean country must have had alarm bells ringing both in New Delhi and Washinton DC.
Maldives plunged into crisis after the supreme court that had all but impeached the President by reinstating 12 opposition members of parliament who were dismissed by government on false charges. The supreme court, parliament and civil society have essentially been rounded amidst growing calls for India armed intervention
India does have a history of sending troops to the country with Operation Cactus Operation Cactus was an Indian armed intervention in Maldives on November 3, 1988. In response to a coup d’état by 100 odd gunmen, India had responded with over 1,600 paratroopers and a massive naval support to crush the rebellion. The Indian response was on the invitation of the then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who took shelter in unmarked houses while pleading India, Britain and US to save his country.
There is a clear pitfall for India to have a face-off with China on the present situation. Traditionally India has been a great friend to the Muslim majority country. However exver since president Mohamed Nasheed as ousted the relationship has been on a downhill. President Yameen has always sided with China to survive Indian pressures on respect of democracy and rule of law. On its part, Maldives’ proximity to US’ Diago Garcia naval base make the island nation of immense strategic importance to both Beijing and as a result to Washington.
In the present crisis almost all countries with any interest in the Indian Ocean region has asked Yameen to respect Supreme Court decisions, China being exception, which like always continues to vouch for its own interests with complete disregard to due process, rule of law and democracy. Its time for Indian foreign ministry to have strategic clarity of thought and action as this crisis may well turn out to be an important battle for influence over the entire Indian Ocean Region.