When Maldives was attacked in 1988 to overthrow President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, India underscored its influence in the region despite the timely help to Maldives, writes Sameer Arshad for The Times of India.
It was a decisive moment for India in Male way back in November 1988. Dozens of opposition backed mercenaries had descended on the Maldives capital and attacked president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s palace to overthrow his government. A handful of guards engaged the attackers, allowing Gayoom to seek New Delhi’s help. Within hours, India obliged and flew in 1,600 paratroopers to frustrate the coup.
India’s timely help – considering Maldives had no army or navy – underscored its influence in a region which straddles the major sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. But more than two decades later, experts blame India for frittering away its advantage as China jockeys with it for influence in the region.
“India has, as usual, been very late in realizing China’s seriousness about Maldives. Like all its neighbours ( Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka), New Delhi continued to believe Maldives will remain in its pocket,” says Harsh V Pant, a lecturer at King’s College Defence Studies in the article.
Pant warned of “real difficulty” for India if Maldives becomes another “pearl in China’s string of facilities around its periphery”.
China’s economic, political and diplomatic investment in Maldives is significant as it was not on its radar till recently, says Pant. “China has given India a run for its money, and even left it behind in some cases, in Maldives.”