India mulls intervention as Maldives crisis deepens

Nayanima Basu Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 06, 2018 Published on February 06, 2018

A file picture of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting in New Delhi in 2016   -  V_Sudershan

Former Maldivian President Nasheed tweets seeking New Delhi’s military intervention

India has activated all its diplomatic channels as it mulls the option of intervening in the ongoing political crisis in Maldives, amidst a deepening confrontation between the judiciary and President Abdulla Yameen, who has declared a state of emergency. Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has sought Indian military intervention.

While India has been “closely monitoring” the situation developing in Male, things took a difficult turn for the Indian government when Nasheed tweeted asking for the military to intervene to release the judges and political prisoners who have been detained by President Abdulla Yameen, sources told BusinessLine.

“On behalf of the Maldivian people we humbly request India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges and political detainees. We request a physical presence,” Nasheed, who lives in exile in London, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

He also requested the US to ensure that American financial institutions stop all transactions of the Yameen regime’s leaders.

India had last intervened in Maldives in 1988 during ‘Operation Cactus’ saving the then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom from a coup that was carried out by Sri Lankan Tamil militants.

On Tuesday, the Yameen government also arrested Gayoom, who served as the President of Maldives from 1978 till 2008, for allegedly plotting a coup. Gayoom is Yameen’s estranged elder brother.

President Yameen, who has refused to adhere to the Supreme Court order, said on national television that the court was proving to be an “obstruction” in the functioning of the state.

In a strongly-worded travel advisory issued by the Ministry of External Affairs late Monday night, the Indian government urged all its citizens to exercise caution and defer all non-essential travels to Male and other atolls.

India is not ruling out the option of assessing a “China hand” in the entire imbroglio. In his five years of rule, President Yameen has never shied away from the fact that he is closer to China and that his country will follow a ‘China First’ policy, in stark contrast to all previous regimes there, sources said.

Beijing has also made it quite clear that it wants the present regime to continue, which is seen as dictatorial and autocratic by other countries.

India, unlike China, wants to see a democratic Maldives upholding constitutional values and views the Yameen government as authoritarian.

Till date Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet visited Maldives. He was to travel there in March 2015, which never fructified. However, President Yameen visited India on January 2014.

External hand

“India would like to see if there is an external guidance or advice that present regime is getting. That would then alter the situation. At this stage India is particularly concerned with Indian passport holders there and if their security is jeopardised then India would be forced to take a tough stance. What is needed now is quiet diplomacy that will yield positive results,” said Former Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia.

Impact on trade ties

However, the present situation is unlikely to have a major impact on Indian exports. This is because total outgoing shipments to the country are worth just $200 million annually, which is less than a hundredth of India’s total exports.

“There could be some effect on exports of some farm produce, machinery, plastics and pharmaceuticals. But as the amount involved is not much, it won’t hit the export sector substantially,” said Ajay Sahai from exporters’ body FIEO.

India has been concerned over the recent signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Maldives and China. However, Maldives has stated that it was working on a bilateral FTA with India.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday said: “We are disturbed by the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives following the refusal of the Government to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full Bench of the Supreme Court on 1 February, and also by the suspension of Constitutional rights of the people of Maldives. The arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures are also reasons for concern. The Government continues to carefully monitor the situation.”

Published on February 06, 2018

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