India, ready, waits and watches

On a day of swiftly unfolding developments in the Maldives following the ouster of Mr Mohamed Nasheed as its President, India on Thursday was in wait-and-watch mode. As political tension continued to roil the Indian Ocean island nation, India was keeping tabs with its Defence Crisis Management Group, activated ever since Mr Nasheed was ousted in a “coup” two days ago.
The PMO was actively involved in the monitoring of the situation in the Maldives on Thursday with national security adviser Shivshankar Menon holding regular meetings to track developments. Contingency plans were in readiness with the Indian armed forces keeping a couple of warships and aircraft on standby if they are required for an evacuation operation. With India already having described the developments in the Maldives as their “internal matter”, military intervention on the lines of the 1988 Operation Cactus does not seem on the cards.
The Cabinet Committee on Security, which met on Thursday under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s chairmanship, discussed the fluid situation in the Maldives.
India is treading cautiously for now as the situation remains extremely fluid. However, sources said the Indian armed forces can respond in a matter of a few hours if the government gives the go-ahead for any sort of assistance to the Maldives.
India fears the resurgence of Islamists in the archipelago where Islam is the official religion and the open practice of other religions is prohibited. “Deposed” President Nasheed, in fact, in an article in the New York Times on Thursday, said that “new laws guaranteeing freedom of speech were abused by a new force in Maldivian politics: Islamic extremists”.
Hoping that stability would return soon to the island nation, sources said India is hopeful that the political parties currently at loggerheads in the Maldives would resolve matters among themselves. India, it is learnt, is in touch with leaders of political parties in the Maldives. Any long-term instability, they feared, would give Islamists and foreign elements a toe-hold in the island nation, they added.

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