India finds herself once again dragged into the Maldivian crisis exactly after 30 years
The Maldives plunged into political crisis last week with the Supreme court of Maldives annulling the arrests of several key opposition leaders including ex-President Nasheed who was jailed by President Yameen to quell dissent and assume absolute power trampling democratic rule. President Yameen rejecting the Supreme court’s verdict blockaded the court and arrested the chief justice and other judges by declaring a state of emergency. The remaining three judges were forced to nullify their own order. This autocratic decision by Yameen came under heavy criticism by the International community including the United Nations. However, President Yameen looks unperturbed and is actively courting China to keep-off any intervention from India. A stable democratic setup looks bleak with Yameen at the helm and opposition led by erstwhile President Nasheed marginalised day by day.
Ex-President Nasheed made a fervent appeal to India for a military intervention, helping release the arrested judges, political opponents and restore order.
On behalf of Maldivian people we humbly request:
1. India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges & pol. detainees inc. Prez. Gayoom. We request a physical presence.
2. The US to stop all financial transactions of Maldives regime leaders going through US banks.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 6, 2018
However, if one reads between the lines; Nasheed is indirectly requesting India to overthrow the Yameen regime and help reinstate him back to the presidency. Nasheed is backing himself as a democratic leader and clearly has the backing of US, UN, India and other western powers; whereas Yameen has covert support of China; which seeks to make the Maldives another Djibouti and Gwadar.
India finds herself once again dragged into the Maldivian crisis exactly after 30 years when then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi successfully executed Operation Cactus ; wherein he sent troops to save President Gayoom’s regime from the hands of foreign mercenaries.
So what factors have changed from 1988 to 2018:
- China was not a factor in 1988, but in 2018 it is the elephant in the room with major geopolitical stakes in the south Asian region.
- In 1988, the request for intervention came from the ruler President Gayoom to help save the Maldives from armed militias, but 2018 is an internal power struggle between a democratically elected leader Nasheed and the current ruling dictator Yameen.
- It is currently an internal political crisis unlike a humanitarian one back in 1988.
- Indian presence and influence in the Maldives have steadily increased over the last three decades.
Here’s a SWOT analysis from an Indian perspective of the various options available at India’s disposal.
|India doesn’t intervene. Status quo is maintained.||India acts militarily||India leads a diplomatic mission on behalf of the international community||China sends troops to reinforce Yameen in order to pre-empt an Indian Military action.|
|Strengths||India’s traditional role of non-intervention and respecting sovereignty gets bostered.
No cost; wait and watch approach.
|India seen as a regional military powerhouse who doesn’t shy from fighting for democracy.
President Nasheed will be back in power effectively having a India-friendly govt. In Maldives.
|Soft approach having no major backlash from responsible powers.
Can further India’s image as a responsible power who can resolve crises through dialogues.
|India can approach UN and other powers and create more pressure on China|
|Weaknesses||● India would not be taken seriously as a net regional security provider.
Any further increase in violence against opposition by Yameen would be blamed on India’s non-engaging role leading to a fallout with Nasheed.
|Polarisation in Maldives and further Islamisation.
Can be chastised at home and abroad for impinging on the sovereignty of another nation.
|Can be seen as a weakness on India’s part.
Can drag the political chaos into a long drawn crisis leading to Yameen assuming more power.
|India would be forced to intervene broadening the zone of crisis to the entire Indian subcontinent.
Would result in a Indo-Chinese proxy war ultimately not solving the Maldivian problem
|Opportunities||Provides window for internal political reconciliation in Maldives||Decisive move to nullify any further Chinese inroads.
Sends a clear warning signal to Pakistan and China that India would not shy to act decisively and militarily to protect its interests.
|Can bolster India’s soft power image and save military operational costs for India.
Can press on Yameen to conduct free and fair presidential elections monitored by the UN.
|China’s image takes severe beating and would be regarded as an interventionist and irresponsible power. India’s stand on Chinese border issues may get global support.|
|Threats||Democracy gets crushed in Maldives and Yameen is emboldened to crush opposition further.
China makes deep inroads effectively ending India’s influence in Maldives altogether.
|India would be seen an occupying force if crisis gets dragged.
Can complicate situations dramatically if China chooses to intervene making it a Indo-Chinese faceoff.
|Can be long drawn process with no end in sight.
Provides Yameen to strengthen his position ultimately stamping his authority.
|Destabilise the entire region and turn Maldives into another Iraq.
Can inspire other dictators of smaller nations to play off big regional players against each other.
|Likelihood of occurrence||High||Low||Very High||Very Low|
|Effectiveness to restore democracy in Maldives||Low||High||Medium||Very Low|
|Favorability for India||Low||Very High||High||Very Low|
Considering these limited options, the best bet for India seems to send a diplomatic envoy on behalf of the UN with the following objectives:
- Free President Nasheed, judges and other political opponents.
- Discontinue state of emergency.
- Step down and conduct UN-monitored free and fair presidential polls to elect the next leader democratically.
Perhaps, it may very well be Operation Cactus 2.0 minus the thorns!
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.