(The arrest and bloodying of Maldives opposition leaders)
The BJP government of Narendra Modi will rue not ousting Abdullah Yameen in Male now when it has the opportunity, the Maldivan opposition and people, and just cause on its side for doing so. That country’s supreme court has ruled Yameen’s imprisonment of the opposition party — Malidives Democratic Party (MDP) leaders illegal, a judgement that ipso facto voids the trumped up charges against Yameen’s political adversary and India’s friend — Mohammad Nasheed. It shows that between the political opposition and the Maldivan people, they have had enough of the idiosyncratic and authoritarian Yameen, who seems intent in depositing Maldives into China’s lap.
Nasheed has been vocal in propagating from his exile in Sri Lanka India’s right to replace Yameen, if necessary by forceful means. In fact Nasheed has gone so far as to say that Maldives is in “Ïndia’s ocean” and that China has no role in it, and definitely not in his country. This reference to Ïndia’s ocean is a response to a Chinese admiral who some years back warned that “The Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean”.
Yameen has been a thorn in India’s side and has for the last few years played Modi for the idiot he thinks the Indian Prime Minister is. Every time the situation reaches a crisis point — the last time recently when he ordered the police physically to bar the opposition members of Parliament from voting against his proposal to lease some atolls in his country to China, which would have ended that particular political pro-China initiative, he gauges Delhi’s reaction and just when he thinks the Indian govt may act, moseys over to Delhi. He did this and made peace with Modi. It is not certain what assurances the Indian PM was given by Yameen, but Delhi ended up doing nothing. Naturally Yameen has grown bolder, and has indicated he would disregard the court’s ruling and, Trump-like, change the political complexion of the supreme court by appointing his friends to the Court to ensure there are no legal challenges to his reign of terror hereafter. He is thus setting himself up as President for life of Maldives and China’s pet poodle in the region. If this isn’t provocation enough for Delhi, it is hard to know what is.
It is time for India to sort things out and for Modi to reassert India’s prime interest in having a friendly Maldivan regime at any cost — meaning without Yameen and his PPM anywhere in the picture. Yameen ought to be removed permanently from the scene. But Modi seems to be falling into the familiar do-nothing mode — the calling card of MEA and Indian diplomacy; perhaps concerting with the US to see what can be done. This is the WRONG THING for him to DO. He should without further ado immediately order a brace of frigates with a MARCOS contingent embarked on them to move post-haste to the Maldivan waters, disembark the MARCOS with full authority to disarm the Maldives police and what forces that country has and, along with a unit of army’s paracommando if needed, arrest Yameen and family and leadership elements of the corrupt ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), fly in Nasheed on special aircraft from Colombo into Male, and hand over power to him. The Indian forces can remain to assist the new Nasheed dispensation purge the local administration, police, and forces of Yameen and PPM sympathisers. And as a first order of his business ensure that all agreements with China are summarily scrapped.
There’s no time to lose. MEA’s habit of slow and ponderous pondering can be left to after this commando action to forever remove the Yameen threat from Male. Modi is increasingly being seen especially in the external realm as clinging to the US apronstrings, fulminating against Pakistan, but talking and amity and peace with China, when the priority should be to consider China the main threat and take it head on. Xi, like his predecessors in office, is good at pursuing Sun Tzu’s favourite tactic of playing up strengths and hiding weaknesses. West of Malacca, China should be made to actually feel the heat of its being on India’s turf. This India has never done.
This is how the international power game is played, not liaising with some big power or the other to see what’s the best way out of an increasingly difficult situation for India. Should Modi fail to act for any reason at all and permit Yameen to stay on, India may as well kiss Maldives good-bye and prepare to see a full-fledged Chinese naval base a stone’s throw away from the Indian mainland. It will be an ironic denouement considering all the brouhaha over Gwadar and the fact of a self-confessed “nationalist” BJP government being in power and Modi in command.
The question is: Is Modi alpha-male only for show, and at the hustings, or will he also act to protect India’s security and strategic interests?