Comment: India an unreliable friend

On 7 February 2012, somebody in the Indian High Commission – located barely a few meters away from the scene where mutinying cops brought down the first elected government in Maldivian history – gave some astoundingly poor advice to somebody in New Delhi, and what followed was one of the worst diplomatic blunders by India in recent memory.

The tear gas clouds had barely settled when Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh sent his ‘warm felicitations’ and became the first country to recognise Vice President Mohamed Waheed’s newly installed government – a coalition of radical Islamists and far right nationalists led by former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s party.

The United States and other Western powers would follow India’s lead in recognising the new regime, and – even as Maldivian democrats watched in disbelief – a major wrong that should have been straightened out was instead set firmly crooked.

The next day, the regime police continued targeted attacks on MDP leaders and activists. MPs were beaten half to death and lay unconscious on the pavements. Mohamed Nasheed, the first elected President of the Republic, was roughed up on the streets by uniformed men and was seen bleeding from the forehead. Scores of civilians were publicly brutalised and hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested while India naively pursued relations with the new regime.

Over one year later, the cycle of violence and unrest continues on the streets of Male’, as pro-democracy protesters clash with regime police. The latest confrontations started after President Nasheed, in a dramatic turn of events last Thursday, sought refuge inside the Indian High Commission following the Waheed regime’s renewed efforts to arrest him and convict him in what is essentially a kangaroo court.

Once again, all eyes are on India, keenly observing if there will be a repeat of the ghastly diplomatic miscalculations of last year.

A series of unfortunate decisions

The gamble in 2012 was this: in return for the recognition of his regime, Waheed had pledged to honour major Indian investments in the Maldives, including the $500 million investment by Indian infrastructure company GMR in the country’s main international airport. As senior Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy confirmed in a recent televised debate, India had also been given assurances that there would be inclusive, free and fair elections.

Once again, somebody in India’s MEA should have easily flagged that Waheed, being a political nonentity, could hardly be held to his word. As the tinpot leader of a party whose very existence – with merely 3000 odd members – is an exercise in vanity, Waheed hasn’t a prayer of being nominated, much less winning an election, and is destined to be discarded into political oblivion before the end of this year.

And yet, India went with his assurances even as the the regime’s extremist allies took out motorcades around the streets of the capital, demanding GMR’s exit and, for the first time in recent Maldivian history, spreading radical anti-Indian propaganda over loud megaphones.

Sure enough, with the same belligerence and arrogance that characterised their early diatribes against the CMAG and EU, the regime thumbed their nose at India, and the GMR deal was scrapped without the slightest courtesy and amid a barrage of heavy anti-Indian rhetoric propagated by radical regime allies like the DQP and the Adhaalath Party.

India’s big gamble failed, and the aspiring superpower was left with egg on its face as Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza publicly slandered the Indian ambassador, calling him a ‘traitor’ and an ‘enemy of the Maldives’. Furthermore, the regime that was legitimised with Indian support would proceed to cozy up to rival power China, with regime actors going so far as to lambast India while on Chinese soil.

Eliminating Nasheed

In the bargain, India also lost favour with former ally Nasheed – whose government had gone out of its way to align with them. From plugging the Maldives into the Indian coastal security grid, to seeking Indian investments in his much celebrated environmental, energy and infrastructure projects, to unilaterally sharing intelligence on religious radicals operating in the country, Nasheed was thoroughly a friend of India in every imaginable sense until India, with remarkable urgency, dumped him and rushed to Waheed’s aid in 2012.

Having scrapped the GMR deal in an ugly fashion, the Waheed regime also backtracked on the second assurance of conducting early, inclusive elections.

Observers of Maldivian politics would recollect that Umar Naseer, Vice President of Gayoom’s political party, had specifically stated in an interview immediately after the February 7 coup d’etat, that Nasheed would not be a part of the next elections.

The regime’s Home Minister Mohamed Jameel has been unable to hide his deep frustration over the overwhelming international pressure that has so far thwarted his concerted attempts to eliminate Nasheed from the political scene ahead of the elections.

Mohamed Nasheed, the lifelong democratic activist, is easily the only MDP leader who commands popular nationwide grassroots support and absolute loyalty of his party activists, making him the last remaining obstacle for the Gayoom network – of which Waheed is the nominal puppet head – to permanently dismantle the country’s nascent democracy and reestablish the old order.

It would be pertinent at this moment to recall that the Waheed’s former Human Rights Minister Dhiyana Saeed, as well as former Military and Police Intelligence Chiefs have independently revealed the existence of opposition plots to assassinate President Nasheed while he was still in power.

With the change of guard on February 7 last year, that has become unnecessary. With the country’s runaway judiciary and security forces firmly under their grip, there is not much to stop the Waheed regime from eliminating him ‘legally’ and ‘by the book’. And this, evidently, is the plan that is currently in place.

Your friendly neighbourhood democracy

Simply put, there is a zero percent chance of an inclusive, fair or free elections being held in the Maldives with the current regime in power.

Faced with this conundrum, Maldivian democrats as well as Indian analysts appear to be looking towards India as the saviour to back Nasheed, who – in a frantic Hail Mary move – is now holed up at the Indian Embassy.

The question is: Why should Maldivian democrats trust India?

There is little reason to expect India to step into the internal affairs of the Maldives for the sake of grand concepts like freedom or democracy in the neighborhood.

One feels that despite the rise of nationalist and Islamist radicals, and the runaway judiciary, and the reversal of democracy in the neighbourhood, and the creation of a police state in the Maldives, what really inspired India’s change of heart about the Waheed regime was the loss of its economic investments. In other words, had GMR not been thrown out, India would have likely continued to turn a blind eye to the regime’s systematic dismantling of democracy in the Maldives.

Perhaps, having been rudely rebuffed by the Waheed regime that has now chosen to align with China, India is merely invoking the patron saint of lost causes by turning to Nasheed.

For the average Maldivian, however, the power struggles between the two large regional powers are a matter of less importance than having a working economy, a functioning judiciary, an expectation of justice, a representative government, and freedom from a familiar brutal police state that has reared its head again after a 3 year slumber.

The solution to these problems have to necessarily be local. Far from relying on foreign intervention, the MDP needs to campaign and educate and rally the public behind the goals of judicial overhaul and peaceful civil disobedience for change.

While one must acknowledge the invaluable assistance from theiInternational community in forcing the iron-fisted Gayoom to bow down before the people and ushering in the democratic transition in the last decade, the truth is that sustaining a democracy is a task that is best accomplished at home.

Not India’s war

The playwright George Bernard Shaw said in the early 1900’s, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve”.

The harsh truth is that the Waheed regime has survived for over an year – despite the reckless trampling over citizens rights, the outright hostility towards the free media, the excessive brutality and the total impunity – only because the Maldivian public has allowed this injustice to take place.

Appearing on The Daily Show, President Nasheed quipped about the Americans following India’s lead in legitimising the coup: “I wonder if it is an intelligent thing to outsource your foreign policy”

Likewise, it is perhaps lazy and counter-productive for Maldivians to outsource the task of nation building to a neighbouring country that has its own vested interests. Indeed, this is perhaps one of the primary lessons that Maldivian democrats should take away from the experience of the February 7 coup. What has been stolen from the Maldivian citizens must be reclaimed by the Maldivian citizens. The responsibility for safeguarding our democracy remains ours and ours alone.

While India intervention could certainly make the task of restoring democracy exponentially easier, it nevertheless remains an objective that needs to be met regardless of India’s stand on the matter.

And yet, as a liberal, democratic Maldivian citizen, one hopes that New Delhi might one day realise that propping up military and Islamist backed anti-democratic forces in its immediate neighborhood will never serve India’s interests – either in the short term or the long term.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


22 thoughts on “Comment: India an unreliable friend”

  1. This is 21st century and India (inspire of being the largest democracy and future super power) is far from a good role model for anything.

    Why do we want more friendship from India while we are already a good friend of India?

    And wh do have to talk about India in a domestic political context? No need.

  2. we do not need help from the kaffir indians, soooper power where peopples do not now how to reed and sh*t everyware. also that itlaian waitres woman is not good and is a christiaan kaffir no good.
    only sunnis are good that is vy ve hav 100% sunni sociti in maldives.We sud kill all non ballivers.
    Excus my inglis pleese i am from pakistan.

  3. The bald heads at the South Block in Delhi mostly are "M"s have become a laughing stock today.....These jokers have brought Chinese just 20km from South Indian coast..Indians all over the world have become comediens...This weekend Panorama Show on BBC talk about Indian girls going to UK for studies engaged in prostitution and this happen in big scale in Australia ...

    All Soooper power talk ..economic development culture all in papers

    Let this Soooper power India build toilets for her citizens first ...and safeguard her boarders ( Chinese have surroundede in all direction) clean corruption put culprits in including Italian woman in prison then talk about others.

    This so called India was not on map before the arrival of British but China and Maldives are there oevr 1000 s of years.

    Maldives may be small but has got 1000s of islands where if necessary it is possible to install fireworks towards this paper Goliath if necessary by another muscle man.

    An empty stomach fakir with loin cloth calling himself I am Superman ...India is doing the same.

    It is the time to give carboard Bharat Ratna ..Pama Boosan titles to these South Block jokers and send them home better before investigate their private bank accounts.

  4. India is playing a fair game. India is not immature bunch like tiny Dhivehistanies with tiny fragments of brain cells. India is well aware of some crazy people holding guns in their hand could do anything. It is like you give guns to Baboons. The difference is Dehistanies can manipulate their thoughts with action which are more dangerous than Baboons. Dhivehistanies thought that by using some civilized terms and methods can blindfold the people around the world sand can be used as a justification for uncivilized barbaric action. An independent judiciary or prosecutor general that does not have people’s consensus does not have any value in the eyes of people.
    India’s behavior is commendable; they know who Dihehistanies are and how childish these baboons like creatures are. You can see how the Dhivehistanies forces are so strongly bonded to chase their opponents to achieve their goal. If India will stick to keep Anni in their premises, hopefully this Baboon establishment will fall part because they have no guts to give reasons to India to take any further steps to humiliate and show Dhivehistanis how vulnerable they are when it comes to face the reality.
    The Divehistanies are divided in two factions and the rule of law is based on what political ideology you have, everything is fair when it is applied to the opposing view, we should be grateful that India has some interest and have stepped in as a barricade between these two made factions. Definitely there will be no friends to help such insignificant people like Dhivehistanies. May be India knows this and trying to help Dhivestanies as we are close relatives.

  5. The whole situation in Maldives is presented as though electing Nasheed is the panacea for all ills.

    This is not the case.

    Electing Nasheed is just a step, out of many that needs to happen.

    1) The juiciary needs to be overhauled. yes, overhauled. Educated, experienced and not-corrupt judges need to sit there. A backing system and processes, across the nation, inclusive of all islands, needs to be in place to get this rolling. At the current state, this would be atleast 5-10 year job, and that is starting with the right people, in the right places.

    2) Means of executing the sentences given to criminals need to be in place. Atleast 10 years.

    3) President Nasheed selected some really good guys in to his team, but sad to say, there were unbeleivably retarded and useless people in his cabinet too. If he gets elected, cleaning his office is a MUST. A top priority.

    4) The vultures who want to bring down existing governments, will always be there. Previously it was the coalition, now it is the MDP. The prostitutes (Adhaalath) will lift up their skirts for anyone, if they are kissed and paid.

    5) The Mordiss desperately needs stability. The election of the President Nasheed, or someone else is just scratch. With the skills shortages in the country,the amount of dedicated, committed men required to run the government, a single party cannot do it. Period. We need the best of the best in the right slots in government, run by someone everyone respects, to get us out of the shit-pit that we have fallen into. Unfortunately, the side benefits / cuts some get out of the turmoil, the resort owners, do not want this to happen. They stand to lose a lot when their wealth streams get scrutinized and appropriate taxation applied.

    6) So, electing President Nasheed is not a solution on its own. He needs to clean up a lot of his own team. And whether he is elected or not, there are a lot of actions that the reigning government can do to set the path for us.

  6. President Nasheed must remember India is country with deep rooted values and principles unlike MDP's core corrupt leadership. So don't try to be smart, as this article is from Nasheed himself. What is Nasheed and his corrupt team want in Maldives? He wants to spread extreme secularly radical practices like promote gay and also fo ban religious practices! Nasheed has no friends for this cause! But his effort for democracy post 2007 is well appreciated!

  7. You know India is damned. It welcomed change in power so Nasheed supporters are baying for our blood and claiming we weren't loyal. This despite Nasheed taking refuge in their embassy (he could have gone to Lankan or Pakistani embassy but, no sir, it had to be India again). Had India opposed Waheed, Waheed supporters would have a field day posting Nasheed as Indian lackey (which they do it any way). Any way, anything India will do Maldivian will always find it meddling in their affairs. It is pure hypocrisy that you want no foreign meddling and yet you want Indian support to "your own" leader. Somehow Mr. Yameen, diplomacy don't work that way.

  8. @Kurvi You better sort out the Internal isuues in Pakistan and then you involve and comment in other country matters.

  9. India gambled at stability when the entire Indian ocean was piracy infested and the global economy was in the doldrums that Waheed's "coup" would restore order.
    Plus, Maldives is an Islamic state, despite all pretensions otherwise - Islamic radicalism is not unexpected and inevitable.
    Nasheed was no saint either, playing fast and loose with power.
    India had no "safe" choices and thus the gamble. Even now, should Nasheed contest and win - how safe would his government be when there is a permanent shadow of his "Indian support" ?

    Nationalism is a mad thing - even a small island nation can get drunk on nationalism and radicalism without basis.

  10. Hey Kurvi, if your country doesn't stop flooding us with afghan heroin, we may have to insert a nuclear strike team in your country and give you guys a warning shot.

  11. yes India should stop selling & supplying food here in Maldives so that 80% of the population will starve to death.

  12. Waheed is "is destined to be discarded into political oblivion before the end of this year."... lol.. yu as always in ur democrazy-world eh

    The future does not belong to the people, road-side crazies.. it belongs to empires and their mullah's... Waheed will be internalized, he is destined to remain integral within the future power-elites, who will never relinquish control. The Chinese are also counting on it.

    real power-brokers do not hv to contest elections (it is the same in america and europe also you retard)..waheed works for the people in control, hu will be control, u frigging cockatoo.

    so which world ru living in eh old boy... mr.special and self-declared eccentric (tall) journalist.

    go make hilary and the pope happy, u make democracy proud champ.

  13. I think this is one of those situations where international aide aswell as the citizens are integral.

    Last year and this year, MDP has bee organizing protests aswell as calling international communities to help them solve the crisis.

    However, that amounted to very little. Despite the protests, the fires, the leaked video's and the interviews by the former top officials of MNDF, Police and Intelligent Agencies; Waheed's government has barely budged. The military officers and police who beat up the MDP protesters and citizens have yet to be convicted, the Judiciary is still slimy and justice has been denied.

    I'm not really sure what more can be done to clean up the Judiciary and to get the criminals in jail.

    I have watched the work of the Parlimentary Oversight Committee that was reviewing the CoNI report with great interest. Questioning the head of the Police Integrity Commission and the Prosecutor General in front of live television is a good way to know what's really going on.

    What I believe should happen is that there should be a thorough independent investigation into the Judiciary that's backed by the international community aswell as a second-hand look at the CoNI report by the Common wealth in light of the new facts that emerged this January.

    Unless, Abdhullah Gazee is removed and new judges are placed, Nasheed shouldn't be held trial. Even if I support him, he SHOULD be held accountable for his deeds but in a FAIR trial that's not about gaining political ground.

    Moreover during the course of the trial our Home Minister Jameel should be bound, gagged and locked in a close and not let out till the trial has finished.

  14. Also another thing that strikes me about this is that it shows how much the parties are personality cults. Afterall, shouldn't parties be about the 'ideals' and not the person?

    If Nasheed can't stand for elections what about Maria? What about Ali Waheed?
    What about Zaki?*

    Surely Anni is not the only one who is eligible or going by the way parties talk about 'destined' to be the President?

    (I would have recommended Reeko Moosa but I fear that if he was President, there would be an even bigger political polarization than in Nasheed's reign)

  15. Dear Yaamyn,
    You say "rise of nationalist and Islamist radicals, and the runaway judiciary"

    1. Please tell me who was the president of the country when for the first time in the history of the Maldives a bunch of saudi and paskistan educated mullah's were given a ministry under the aegis of promoting islam and given state resources to do so.

    2. Tell me who was the president who nominated the bench of the highest appellate court, the Supreme Court of the so called "runaway judiciary"..

    There were things we did under our dear President Nasheed's MDP government. So what do we say, brother?

  16. Dear Malidivian friends, I am an Indian, and this article has brought some important things in light, about which I was not aware before. It is sad that Indians and the whole world community had turned their blind eye towards your plight. Maldives is one of a few nations which has always relied on India as its best friend in difficult situations, and we at your recent time of need only deserted you because of our selfish politicians. After reading this report I am 100% sure that Mr Waheed has got money and support directly from the Chinese and Pakistanis, who are all out to convert your beautiful country into Afghanistan and establish a junction to monitor Diego Garcia and India, but they have no love for Maldivians. Your country has not seen much sectarian violence earlier, so I dont think there is a need for an Islamist state in your nation, Moreover, your country has nearly 100% Muslim population so Shariat or no Shariat, you all are devout muslims. I think that you need to unite as a nation and fight all odds to restore democracy, as far as Indians are concerned, we have got a lesson to remember. It is your war now, fight for the safety of your future generations. Indians have helped restore order in 1988, we can also do it again. But your initiative is now needed. Lastly, if you want to go to China-Pakistan way, then you are happy to go but remember your country is destined to meet the end of Libya, North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria, Laos etc. So the choice is yours be independent or be like them.

  17. @jabir-bin-lo-J:

    1. The reason why the Islamic Ministry was created was because it was part of the deal of the Coalition during the 2008 elections.

    Yes, Anni did let the dogs loose from it's chains but have you forgotten that Anni was also the only one with balls to stand up to Adhaalath and their bullying? That Anni was the one who stood up for moderate, tolerant Islam?

    In doing so with the December 23rd and the subsequent coup, the Adhaalat party has lost credibility with the people and now the people know what happens when religion and politics mix. That's one of the good things to come out of post-Feb. 8th. The Adaalath dogs are no longer put on a pedestal by the people and people see them now as the political opportunists and hypocrites they are.

    2. As I understand it, the judiciary bench still consists of people who were installed by Gayyoom and his regime. Nasheed created the Judicial Watchdog in order to watch over their activities.

  18. When Nasheed use religion as a political tool, it is is use in correct sprit .

    What ever said and done, Adaalth is a political party and it has been registered as a political party, so what ?

    But Adaalth has different political agenda unlike many other political parties and this does not stop them in engaging in politics.

    Adaalth party has a very clear principles of engagement in politics and they are going along with their objectives.

    Where as MDP now have no solid principles except to bring Nasheed to the power and people were made to work around Nasheed and his implement policies to protect and proper Nasheed.

    Adaalath polices are are to promote and protect the religious affairs and this is the difference between Adaalth and MDP.


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