Setbacks in Maldives have security implications for India: Deccan Herald

The Maldives has been generating bad news for some time. On February 12, former president Nasheed refused to honour court summons and threatened with arrest, sought refuge in the Indian embassy. India was in a quandary, writes R S Chhikara for the Deccan Herald.

India wants democracy to take root in the Maldives and Nasheed was the only democratically elected president of the country.

His arrest and conviction would disqualify him from participating in the upcoming elections. Indian diplomacy went into overdrive to ensure participatory elections that would require Nasheed’s participation as a free man. Nasheed expected Indian support but India could not be seen to be partisan.

The government in Male has for the time being desisted from arresting and trying Nasheed but the reprieve is only for a month and there are signs that an agreement to this effect, if one exists, may not after all, be honoured. If that happens, Waheed and Gayoom will have a cake walk. Democracy will lose out.

India’s leverage with Male does not appear to be working and there lies the rub.

After a spell of autocratic rule by Ibrahim Nasir and Abdul Gayoom lasting nearly 45 years, Nesheed became the first elected president of the country in 2008. In January 2012, Nasheed ordered the arrest of Abdullah Mohammad, Chief of Criminal Court who was accused of blocking legitimate legal action against Gayoom. Nasheed was forced to resign at gun point in what was for all purposes, a coup.

It is not too far fetched to imagine that last year’s coup against Nasheed and current efforts to neutralise him as a potential presidential candidate through a judicial verdict could well be a conspiracy by Islamists and others to ensure that democracy does not stabilise and terrorists get the required political patronage.

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Indian comedy of errors in the Maldives: Deccan Herald

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.

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