By Vijay Darda | 12-02-2018
If China is able to get the Maldives, which has been our friend, to sit in its lap, the situation can really turn dangerous for us!
The Maldives is currently undergoing a crisis. President Abdulla Yameen has imposed emergency and the judges of the Supreme Court have been arrested. These judges had ruled that the lawsuit against former president Mohamed Nasheed was unconstitutional. In the Maldives politics, Nasheed is the person who paved the path for democracy in the country. These days, he is in exile and after the latest developments, he has requested India to intervene for restoration of democracy in the Maldives. Notably, the Maldives is a democratic country but its constitution is flawed. The judiciary is weak too. It is here that the genesis of the problem lies.
If you look at the history, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled the Maldives for 30 years. He was always close to India and openly shared friendship too. India also responded with friendship. In 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil militant group People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam had almost captured the Maldives with the help of local rebels, and Gayoom had to go into hiding to save himself. He sought help from America, Britain, India, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India then. He took a prompt decision. Within a few hours, Indian army landed in the Maldives and saved Gayoom as well as his government. The whole world saluted the bravery of the Indian army and the zeal of India.
Gayoom is a very good person. I got an opportunity to meet him and exchange views. As president of the South Asia Editors’ Forum, I went to the Maldives with a delegation. He hosted a banquet in our honour and continued to express his love for India during the conversation. As long as he was in power, India was closest to the Maldives. He did not allow China to come anywhere near him. But now he is not in power!
So the question being raised now is why the government of India is not taking any step after the latest developments? Three days back, the US President Donald Trump spoke to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. In fact, to understand the situation of the Maldives, we have to go back a little. When Gayoom was president, a journalist Mohamed Nasheed formed the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2003. He launched the movement and a new constitution was introduced in the Maldives in 2008. Subsequently, direct elections were held for the president’s post and Mohamed Nasheed himself won. Gayoom had to step down.
Nasheed was also close to India. But due to his advisors in Britain, he tried to allow the US and Britain in the Indian Ocean. This annoyed an influential class of the Maldives and his government was toppled in 2012. He too had sought India’s help then. But as he was more inclined towards the US and Britain, India did not intervene. The very next year in 2013, Nasheed received more number of votes in the first round of election, but the court declared that election invalid. In the second round, Abdulla Yameen, the step-brother of former president Gayoom, won and is still the president. He trapped Nasheed in a slew of lawsuits but the latter succeeded in leaving the country. To strengthen his grip on power, Yameen dismissed nearly a dozen MPs from their posts by levelling different allegations and slapping cases against them. The matter reached the apex court and the judges ruled in favour of MPs and former president Mohamed Nasheed. Now if these MPs are reinstated, the Yameen government can land into trouble and therefore, he imposed emergency in the country. He also put the judges in jail on the allegations of bribery. Not only that, two Indian journalists Mani Sharma and Aatish Raoji were also arrested.
Remarkably, Gayoom played a key role in bringing Yameen to power. But ignoring Gayoom’s stance, Yameen made friends with China. In spite of India’s opposition, he executed many agreements with China including Maritime Silk Route and is now allowing China to build hotels and resorts on several islands of the Maldives. In fact, tourism is the backbone of the Maldives’ economy. This country is blessed with incredible beauty. That is why China is keen to capture tourism here. It is also being stated that in the coming days, Yameen can also allow China to build a military naval base in the Maldives. China and Yameen are getting ready to do so. The worrisome aspect is the involvement of Pakistan in this crisis. Both India and America too are aware of this fact. That is why America wants India to intervene this time. As for China, it has taken a different stand altogether. It has said that the Maldivian crisis is that country’s internal matter. Neither the UN and nor India should interfere. By maintaining this, it has tried to signal that it will not tolerate any interference.
So what should India do? I feel that India should take some tough steps. It should impose harsh sanctions against the Maldives and ensure early elections to save democracy there. For, India can not shut its eyes on the Maldives because this part of the Indian Ocean is our area of influence. This is our main sea route. The presence of enemies like China and Pakistan will be fatal for us. China is trying to encompass us on every side. In such a situation, we have to show some nerve. It is not proper to allow the Maldives to sit in China’s lap.
Before I conclude…
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has suggested that voting should be made compulsory. Basically, this idea is good but the question is how will voting be made compulsory? What will you do if a farmer does not go to cast his vote? Will he be denied official benefits? If a labourer does not vote, will he not be given employment under government schemes? What if an industrialist fails to vote? There is no answer to these questions. In fact, we will have to create such an awareness and understanding that every citizen of the country should feel inspired to vote.