The Maldives, Asia’s smallest archipelago nation which is a group of 1190 islands and situated in the Indian Ocean is famous for its beautiful beaches but in Feb 2018 it is getting famous for its internal unstable condition which is generated because of conflict between it’s Supreme Court and its current president Abdulla Yameen, and as of result of which President declared a 15 days state emergency on 5th of February which was further extended for 30 days on 19th of February.
Background of the Political Crisis
Abdulla Yameen is the 6th President of the Maldives and joined the office in November 2013. As soon as Yameen came into the power he starts to crackdown the opposition by filing false corruption and terrorism cases against them and jailed them.
He is doing this so that there would not be any opposition against any of his decision which he takes in his interest or we can say in the interest of Dragon. After this, the supreme court of the country objects on this and on 1st Feb 2018 Supreme court order the government of Maldives to release all 9 political prisoners, the basis for this judgement was that the cases against these people were politically motivated and also to reinstating 12 parliament members from the immediate effect.
But Yameen refuse to follow the order because this will lead the opposition to take the power and potentially paving the way for Yameen’s impeachment. This decision was criticized by nations like India, USA etc but China didn’t utter any word on this.
So, instead of following the order of Supreme Court Yameen declared the state emergency and ordered the arrest of two judges of the Supreme Court of the Maldives, including Chief Justice of the Maldives Abdulla Saeed and justice Ali Hameed Mohamed.
After all these incidences below tweet were done from exiled former President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, in which he is requesting from India to intervene into the Maldives by sending a convoy.
A question might get raised that why Former President is requesting from India? well, this is because this is not the 1st time when the Maldives is in crisis. In November 1988 also a coup was tried to be done against the government of the then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom by a militant group PLOTE with the help of some Maldivians and at that time India Army conducted the Operation Cactus and secure both the then President of Maldives and democracy of the country.
Relation of India and Maldives
India the 1st nation who recognized the Maldives as an independent nation after its independence in 1965. Relation of both the nations prevails when India help the Maldives to restore the democracy by failing the coup tried to be done in 1988 against the then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Apart from this in 2014, Yameen was one of the leaders India invited for the swearing in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But in 2015 Modi called off the visit of Maldives because of the crackdown of opposition parties by Yameen and as this was not acceptable to India hence our PM didn’t visit the nation. So on one side relation between India and Maldives was getting worst and on the other side as soon as Yameen becomes the President, the relationship between Maldives and China gets improved. In recent years, Yameen has seemingly aligned the Maldives towards China as it signed China’s ambitious maritime silk route project which India doesn’t support as it is a part of One belt One road initiative which includes CPEC.
Then in December Maldives also signed Free Trade Agreement( FTA ) with China ( at the time of passing this agreement only 30 out of 85 members of the People’s Majlis are present ) and it didn’t even mention the name of India in the list of future nations with which FTA can be done.
Then the Maldives also snatch the contract of airport development from an Indian infrastructure firm GMR and gave it to a Chinese firm Beijing Urban Construction Group.
So this is a clear message to India that Maldives policy of India first is changed now which was followed by the Maldives since a long time, Now one thing we also need to understand this changes in policy is because of change in government.
Why India concerned about the Maldives crisis.
If someone sees the condition of Maldives it might look like an internal political crisis, but in reality, it is much more than that. Yameen is the 6th president of the nation and came into the office in 2013 and from then only the relation of India and Maldives getting worst and on the other hand, Male-Beijing relation starts to get stronger which was clear from the visits happened in December 2017 when Maldivian President visit China and in the same month Chinese President visited the Maldives. Apart from FTA, giving the contract to a chinese firm by taking it from Indian one and then extending the support to Belt and Road initiative of China by the Maldives are the clear indication that Yameen is ignoring the long relation of Maldives-India and come up as Pro- China leader.
The government of Yameen also passed an amendment to the constitution in July 2015 allowing foreign power can buy or lease an island or atoll in the Maldives. So in this way, this is not a political issue of Maldives but it becomes an arena of the geopolitical game in the Indian Ocean region.
As soon as the amendment is passed India got alarmed because this opens a way for China to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean region by buying or leasing an island in the Maldives which Dragon can use for military purposes in future which will be a serious security concern for India. Though how China doesn’t have its coastline in the Indian Ocean but China encircle India by a string of pearl which it creates using Hambantota port of Srilanka, Gwadar port of Pakistan, Djibouti Port and now Marao atoll of Maldives.
Apart from security issues, economic concerns of India will also be increased by the presence of China in the Maldives as sea trade route of India passes through many choke points and one of them passes through the Maldives so those routes can be easily blocked by China if has its presence in that area.
What India should do in this situation
Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the 21st century. The destiny of the world will be decided in these waters.
Above statement clears the importance of Indian Ocean, it has always been and will remain on the strategic radar of great powers. Given its location with abundant oil, minerals resources and fisheries and being a hub of vast seaborne global trade and oil route, it has turned into an arena of geopolitical rivalry between the world power. For India, this trade route passes through the Maldives and hence it is very important for India to have control on this region and also to have good relationships with countries of Indian Ocean. China understands the importance of this region and also it’s sea trade goes from this route and hence it is trying to increase its influence in this region which is not in the interest of India both economically and strategically.
So, if India wants to dominate in this region then India needs to keep good relation with Maldives and Srilanka. Currently, in case of Maldives crisis, India has issued two statements since the crisis erupted, one on the morning of 2 February exhorting the Maldivian government and all its agencies to abide by the Supreme Court judgment and the second on 6 February conveying that it was ‘’disturbed’’ at the imposition of emergency by the Maldivian government. In conjunction with the UN and other democratic countries, India should apply unrelenting pressure in a graduate and calibrated manner on Yameen to restore freedom and independence of the Supreme Court, lift the state of emergency, implement the 1 February judgment and ensure that Mohamed Nasheed is able to contest the Presidential election due to take place later this year. India should also take the lesson from this issue and should also focus its diplomatic activities in this region so that any other possible threat don’t get the chance to create any problems in this region.