The Maldives crisis

The tiny island nation of Maldives, lying in the Indian Ocean south-west of Sri Lanka, is currently in the grip of a crisis. Its present president, Abdulla Yameen, is bent on being in power. Twelve Opposition Members of Parliament were disqualified on technical grounds. Earlier this month, a full bench of the Maldives Supreme Court set aside that order. A furious ordered the army to storm the Supreme Court building and arrest the Chief Justice and another judge of the apex court. With the Opposition practically stamped out, there was not even a murmur of protest at this outrage. It is Mohammed Nasheed, the former president who was “made to resign at gunpoint” and who had been living in self-exile in England, who urged India to intervene by sending a special envoy with “military backing”. As president Yameen is very close to China and practically pushed his country into China’s orbit, the crisis had to be seen in the larger context of Sino-Indian rivalry for supremacy in Asia. What added to the tension were unconfirmed reports that India had kept its special forces ready for deployment at short notice.
China has, meanwhile, clarified its position, stating that it does not want Malidves to be another ‘flashpoint’ with India. Beijing has asked everyone concerned to “respect Maldives’ sovereignty” and cautioned against any external interference in Maldives. Beijing has said it is “in touch with India” to resolve the crisis This is reassuring. Mohammed Nasheed and others who want India to intervene physically in Maldives as India did way back in November, 1988, by sending paratroopers to rescue the then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who was facing an attack by armed mercenaries from Sri Lanka, forget one thing. At that time India responded to a request from a head of government. Today, the situation is entirely different. There is no request for India’s intervention from the present president. A hasty and precipitate intervention by India in Maldives cannot be justified under international law. Rather it will create complications for India which will be seen as a Big Power seeking a ‘regime change’ in a small nation and may turn world opinion against India. New Delhi can help Maldives by putting diplomatic pressure on Yameen, along with other friendly countries, to respect the Supreme Court and desist from the path of confrontation with the highest judiciary of the land.

Monday, 19 February, 2018