Maldives crisis: Indian government on wait-and-watch mode


On a day of swiftly unfolding developments in the Maldives following the ouster of Mr. Mohamed Nasheed as its President, India on Thursday was on 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 Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was also 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 this geo-strategically important island nation located to the southwest of the Indian mainland.

The Indian government is treading cautiously for now as the situation remains extremely fluid in the archipelago.

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 titled 'The Dregs of Dictatorship', 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 logger-heads 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.

While India had militarily intervened in 1988 in what was dubbed 'Operation Cactus' after a request by the then Maldivian government, sources said there was a crucial difference in the scenario then and the one now.

In 1988, the Indian Navy was called in to rescue Maldivians taken hostage by Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries off the coast of Sri Lanka in a coup attempt engineered by a Maldivian businessman.

The present situation in the Maldives is one of internal strife and conflict among the Maldivians
themselves, said sources.

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