(Yameen among friends)
As was intimated in previous post, and something newspaper reports today confirm, the Modi government is seeking Washington’s permission to act on Maldives to restore the sanctity of the Courts in that country that ruled against President Abdulla Yameen’s staying in office. Yameen is described by his political rival and India friend Mohammad Nasheed as the “villain in paradise”, whose ouster from power is sought by Nasheed and the entire political opposition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot have a clearer picture of the emerging China threat in the Maldives than the one Nasheed has painted for Delhi. If despite this, he persists with the “frightened rabbit” policy natural to MEA that abhors coercion and “military diplomacy”, then the Indian PM will deserve every brickbat that is coming his way. Maldives, Nasheed wrote in an op/ed, is being “sold off” “piece by piece, island by island” to China. ( http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/a-villain-in-paradise-maldives-president-abdulla-yameen-5053962/ ).
And the Indian government will not find a cleaner cause for armed intervention. Armed for many reasons. Yameen, no babe in the political woods, is the wolf masquerading as a lamb, his bidding done not only by the Maldivan military but, more directly, by his police and his own (late Haitian dictator) Papa Duvalier-style “tonton macoute” — a sort of praetorian guard made up of young, Islamic zealots, some of them veterans of the Maldivan armed forces, who are well armed, and can and will put up a fight, seeing their future in the survival of the Yameen presidency.
These roughnecks, in the pay of the Yameen crony class-Chinese nexus, are not going to be subdued by genteel Indian diplomats in Male arguing reasonably for respecting the supreme court verdict, restoration of democratic order, rule of law, and supremacy of the Maldivan Constitution. What will persuade them and Yameen are an Indian frigate and missile destroyer (incidentally, already in the waters not too far from Male) with embarked Marcos to knock a few Maldivan heads, take Yameen into custody along with some of his personal “tonton macoute” guard, fly in Nasheed and get Maldives back on the rails.
It is a very good sign of the Indian armed services’ alertness that it is readying the necessary military wherewithal for intervention should Modi display strategic sensibility for a change and order them into Male to write finis to the Yameen episode in Maldivan history. While a joint Marcos-army paracommando operation is fine, there will be nothing more effective than a big warship or two offshore of Male to speed up Yameen’s decision to depart for exile (lest he, oops! be shot up in his presidential residence).
But Modi is sitting on his hands, awaiting an OK from the US –when this is basically India’s problem to solve with rough and ready methods. Those in MEA telling friendly press reporters that Nasheed is no angel and that he once flirted with China is to discount the prime opportunity for installing him in power, winning his gratitude, keeping the Maldives on India’s side, and for the expeditious rescinding of all contracts signed with Chinese companies for the “dual use” infrastructure they are stealthily building so that the China threat is zeroed out for the nonce.
To the other line put out in the press through friendly beat reporters by MEA that using strongarm methods will create a blowback, as Rajiv Gandhi’s blockading decision did in Nepal, besides mis-analogizing, is to not even comprehend what is at stake in the Maldives — which is not surprising considering just how habitually unstrategic MEA’s and the Indian government’s collective mind (assuming there is such a thing) is.
The larger issue that Modi’s wanting Trump’s approval for action that is centrally in Indian national interest shows up the far more worrisome trend apparent from Vajpayee’s days of surrendering the country’s sovereignty and Delhi’s capacity for sovereign decisionmaking, making it hostage to American concerns. Does Delhi expect the US to consult with it about how it treats Cuba? Or, Mexico? If not why should Modi be concerned about what Washington thinks about the hard option India may exercise in the Maldives to protect and safeguard India’s security stake in the non-China influenced Maldives? Or, have things gone so far that Modi/Doval/MEA/GOI cannot separate India’s interests from the US’?
Modi is seriously compounding his political problems that got a jolt with the Congress raking up the Rafale controversy on the cost angle — which this analyst has been stressing over the years in my books and writings (including in this blog). If Modi ends up losing the Maldives, he will find it impossible to recover his standing or “nationalist” image and reputation. What the country won’t be able militarily to recover from is the geostrategic loss of Maldives to China.