Save Maldives from the Gayooms

The Maldives — an archepelagic island chain in the south-western Indian Ocean — and of strategic importance to India that cannot be under-estimated, is under terrific strain from the continued rule by President Yameen Gayoom, who means to consolidate the Gayoom Family hold on this island country mostly by crook, and now needs to be visited by the Indian High Commissioner in Male and informed that unless the democratic order is restored and the former President and head of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, Mohammaed Nasheed, released forthwith from prison on trumped up charges alongwith his defence minister who is similarly incarcerated, that he may find an Indian army’s Special Forces unit dropping by his presidential palace for a little bit of gentle persuasion. New Delhi did no react strongly enough in Feb this year when Nasheed was sentenced for 13 years (and his defence minister drawing a 10 year sentence) by a Kangaroo Court masquerading as the Maldivian judiciary on the charge of ïntending to kidnap a judge during his presidency. While the act was never carried out and intention is hard to prove, these factors have not swayed the existing Maldivian judiciary, which is known for its links to the Gayoom order, from doing the dirty political work of removing the only democratic threat extant to Yameen. There is every danger that if the Modi government fails to act now, Yameen will feel emboldened by Delhi’s traditional passivity to ask Beijing for a permanent military presence on the island territories to preempt India from strong arming him and proving any threat to his rule.How was Nasheed brought down within 2 years of being voted to power? By the police and the small Maldivian military with vested interests in the Gayoom dispensation, rebelling against the newly installed president, That should have been the event to trigger an Indian intervention, even though Nasheed prematurely resigned. It was little over 2 years ago, that Yameen was on the point of leasing the northern-most Maldivian island, just 19 kms off the southern-most Lakshdweep island, to China. Only a timely visit and advice by the Flag Officer commanding-in-chief, Western Naval Command, VADM Shekhar Sinha, prevented this deal from going through. Yameen’s older half-brother Maumoon, is the one whose hide was saved by the Indian airborne operation (Op Cactus) ordered by Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 from a coup d’ état by some LTTE adventurers.But once Yameen gets the Chinese in, it’ll be direct confrontation with Beijing. To preempt such a possibility is why India needs to act forcefully and NOT as some MEA types appearing on TV have suggested that India should bide its time, let the Maldivan people get sick of the Gayooms as the Sri Lankan people were of the Rajpaksas, and otherwise be part of a multilateral effort to pressure Male, etc. If India does not secure Maldives, no one else will do it for us. Gunboat diplomacy still works wonders. Time Modi used it, because Yameen is unlikely to become more democratic just by the PM cancelling his visit. The Gayooms have been adept at radicalizing the peaceful Maldivian society with extremist Wahabbi Islamists and cultivating China, whence that country is becoming a growing source of IS fighters and another pearl in the Chinese chain heralding the Chinese maritime silk route. They also have a thick skin and they need to be treated with prejudice, with extreme prejudice if Yameen acts tough. Act now Mr Prime Minister.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Geopolitics, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Maldives, society, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Save Maldives from the Gayooms

  1. Pratap Ar says:

    Does India have the political will and capability to mount a military offensive? Will it be internationally counter productive?

    • Political will, yes, there’s the rub — always has been India’s weakness (and that of its rulers). The expeditionary military capability? The country has it. Counterproductive? Depends on the confidence with which India acts and makes amply clear that in its “sphere of responsibility”, and especially the Indian Ocean, it will brook no unfriendly govt or one that nurses Islamic (or any other) extremism. Is China deterred by bad press or fear of negative intl reaction when it takes aggressive measures in the South China Sea? That’s the attitude India would do well to emulate.

  2. Shail says:

    trigger a coup?

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