The Maldives — with a predominantly Sunni population of 400,000, the ending of President M.A. Gayoom’s 30-year rule and the US war on terror post-9/11 — was ripe for the emergence of radical Islamists and their convergence with Gayoom loyalists, writes for K C Singh for India’s Deccan Herald.
Mr Nasheed’s election convinced New Delhi that the Maldives was on a path of self-correcting liberal democracy. But even when warning signals began emanating that the tourism industry was being targeted on narrow principles of faith and that Mr Nasheed was alienating his alliance partners, corrective measures were not taken.
Firstly, India erred in quickly endorsing the transfer of power from Mr Nasheed to Mr Waheed without ensuring that the latter excluded sympathisers of radicals from critical Cabinet posts (the home minister went to a Pakistani religious school), announced early elections and struck a truce with the outgoing President.
The unseemly haste in India’s Prime Minister writing to the new President lost that opportunity. The next mistake was in neither anticipating the attack on the Indian company GMR, to whom the awarding of the contract to run the Male airport was a showpiece decision of the Nasheed government, nor defending it when a clear motivating factor was the business interests of Mr Waheed’s coalition partner.
Finally, the Nasheed affair has been handled without political finesse. Resting Indian interests on the fate of one obviously flawed personality, exposing his Indian links by having him sit cowering in India’s mission and thus letting anti-Indian and pro-Islamic sentiments swirl is foolhardy. Gayoom has positioned himself cleverly. He has neither supported India nor criticised it. His daughter, who is in the run for presidency, benefits from the division between Mr Nasheed and Mr Waheed. We should not have abandoned Mr Nasheed in 2012, and having done so not got stuck with him.
Disraeli, as Prime Minister in 1877, frustrated by his maladroit diplomats wrote, “They seem quite useless. It is difficult to control events, but none of them try to.” His ambassador in Berlin he felt was “… reporting all Bismarck’s bravado… in an ecstasy of sycophantic wonder”. Perhaps our Prime Minister needs to ask the same question to his diplomats and his national security adviser.