Immediately strengthen Solih

Image result for pics of Maldivan president solih

[Solih campaigning]

A vile incubus is off India’s back. The autocratic Abdulla Yameen has been ejected from the office of President of Maldives by the people in the elections that everybody had assumed would be trifled with by Yameen to extend his reign.  Instead the popular, soft-spoken, Mohammad Solih, is the new President and Delhi can heave a sigh of relief.  Though until he went on television to concede the elections, there was widespread apprehension that Yameen would again do the dirty on Maldivan democracy and use the police and the country’s small military to forcibly reverse the election outcome and reinstall his dictatorship.

It would appear Yameen was stunned that he had been overthrown by the people. Much like Indira Gandhi in the elections called by her after the Emergency, he did not try and rig the polls, certain that the grateful masses would return him to power with a popular mandate to stick with the course he had set Maldives on. Yameen spent uncomprehending  hours, in the presidential palace, contemplating the election results, unable to reconcile to the fact of his peaceful ouster, before finally and formally throwing in the towel.

The mild-mannered Solih who takes control in Male is a committed friend of India desirous of restoring to it its traditional role as well-wisher and prime protector of the archipelagic country of some 1,200 atolls in the southern Indian Ocean stretching over thousands of miles of the ocean.

Solih needs help to begin distancing Maldives from China and shrinking its oversized presence in his country which had been pushed by Yameen into a classic debtor country status vis a vis China. Maldives owes Beijing $1.3 billion. Its patent inability to service this debt which amounts to 35% of Maldivan GDP led to Yameen signing away whole atolls to China where Beijing, under cover of building infrastructure, is erecting military-use infrastructure. Delhi should offer every help and assistance to dismantle the Chinese presence and take over completion of such underway Chinese projects as Solih prioritizes. This will eliminate the residual threat to India’s security from China which the Modi regime all these years did little to diminish, with the Indian High Commissioner in Male reduced to pleading with Yameen to refrain from doing this, that, and the other.

What the BJP government should do on the most urgent basis is for once pull its head out of the sand where China is concerned, and sanction an outright grant of $1.3 billion to  the new Solih dispensation  to enable it to clear his country’s debt with the Chinese and to regain for India not just its premier status in Maldives but loads of goodwill of the people. Such a reminder to Maldivans of India’s friendship will go far to right the India-Maldives relationship, put it to an even keel. This is the first break India has got in a long time, in the face of China racking up series of successes in the neighbourhood with Xi’s “debt-book diplomacy”.

It may be no bad thing in this context for Modi himself to make a quick dash to Male to touch base with President Solih, congratulate the Maldivan people for their democratic temper, offer to station an Indian naval flotilla in nearby waters in case Beijing acts up or a company of Special Forces should Yameen instigate the Maldivan forces to negate the election results, and invite him to be the chief guest at India’s 2019 Republic Day parade and celebrations. That will be the cherry atop the India-Maldives cake.

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 asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Maldives, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Immediately strengthen Solih

  1. pratap.ar99@gmail.com says:

    Professor,
    Was there any influence by RAW in the election?

  2. R Rao says:

    Interesting to remember that till last week, you were recommending India to send its navy with the aircraft carrier to Male and smash Yameen.

    Patience, respect for a fellow democracy and trust in people’s judgement about their own well being, goes a long way in sobering up the mechanical interpretation of analysts, coming from the realist school !! Care to learn this time ??

  3. AD says:

    What are the chances that current Indian government won’t screw this up too? I still think there is a good chance that they will somehow manage to snatch defeat from jaws of victory. Hope I am wrong on this one..

  4. Vishnugupt says:

    @ Prof Karnad.
    Like the saying goes, proof of the pudding lies in the eating and I think we shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

    I don’t buy the argument that the Chinese didn’t do anything to get a favorable result.The Chinese will be last people on earth to let democracy win.I think what they did is spectacularly devious and highly potent.

    And I have a conjecture.

    I would like to draw you attention to “The Prince” where Machiavelli praises Cesare Borgia’s method of out sourcing the brutal acts to a third party(Messer Remirro de Orco) and when the task is accomplished, he kills him to send a message to the masses that he is against evil and the gruesome acts of Remirro did not had his approval, by doing this he ultimately succeeds in eliminating his opponents and manages to win the trust and admiration of his citizenry at the same time.

    I think the Chinese are making Ibrahim Solih the Cesare Borgia, by letting go of Messer Remirro de Orco(Abdulla Yameen).

    I think what the Chinese have done is that, they used Yameen to do the brutal acts(take on Chinese debt) and then let him loose and planted another leader(Solih) who is liked and has the support of the majority and is not hated by rest of the world( Including India) but at the same time is not going to disturb the status quo in Maldives, which is in China’s favour.

    Because we think Yameen is the source of all evil, exactly like the people of Italy thought about Messer Remirro.

    If this is true, then this is a masterstroke.Well played Beijing,Yet again.

    Now Delhi can’t go guns blazing even if the PLAN operationalises the naval base in Maldives. Because the world thinks “bad guy” Yameen is out and “good guy” Solih is in.

    Catch 22 someone?

    Please do correct me if i am wrong.

    • The Borgia method you refer to has a Chinese strategic analog — “killing with a borrowed sword”. There are no reasons to believe Solih is such a sword. It won’t however stop Beijing from testing his mettle in terms of pliability in exchange for a big baksheesh — the usual way foreign powers have always intruded into South Asian affairs.

  5. AD says:

    Here is the latest example of what passes for “diplomacy” and “strategy” in India. Did I mention that China and many other countries will continue purchasing whatever oil they require from Iran. Do the idiots in New Delhi even comprehend the full consequences of such stupid decisions. Let us, for a moment, ignore the almost certain adverse impact on fuel prices in future- which will bite BJP come election time.

    The far bigger problem is that India is now behaving like a satellite of USA, even though it lacks financial wherewithal to buy overpriced american military crap- not to mention the possibility that Saudis might be on the losing side of any large future confrontation in that region. Is the concept of hedging bets alien to senior bureaucrats in Delhi? Do they not understand the risks of hitching along with an empire in rapid decline (USA)?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-25/india-is-said-to-cut-imports-of-iranian-oil-to-zero-in-november-jmhy95z8

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