However, New Delhi will not send boots on the ground
India’s armed forces are ready to take on responsibility for any contingency in its southern neighbor Maldives, where uncertainty is hovering after President Abdulla Yameen forces arrested two Supreme Court judges and a former President after declaring state of emergency late on Monday night.
According to sources in New Delhi, the armed forces, which keep close eye on “developments in the entire neighborhood”, were “prepared for any eventuality” and “deployment at short notice”. However New Delhi does not seem to be inclined to send its army for intervention.
Earlier, responding to Maldivian former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Tuesday evening request for sending “envoy and troops”, India had expressed “concern” saying it was “disturbed” by the “state of emergency” imposed by President Abdulla Yameen. However, official sources told that while the government is mapping out its next steps, “sending Indian troops to the island nation is not an option”.
On Tuesday, Sri Lanka based Maldivian Democratic Party opposition leader and former President Nasheed tweeted a “humble” request to India “to send an envoy, backed by its military, to release judged and political detainees”.
According to a leading daily, sources in New Delhi said, “They want us to send warships and put boots on the ground, but we don’t want to be drawn into sending the military to sort out a political mess there.”
For now, even just sending a special envoy was out of the question as there was no guarantee that Yameen would engage with such a representative. Instead, sources in the capital said that India is hoping to work together with a group of countries, including the US and Saudi Arabia, to bring pressure on the Yameen government through “sanctions”, if needed.
As a regional power, India maintains a couple of its naval warships on patrol on the western seaboard, which can be diverted to Maldives if required. “India also has some defense personnel in Maldives due to defense cooperation; our warships, aircraft and copters often patrol its exclusive economic zone,” a source said.
Certain number of troops, warships and aircraft are always kept ready to swiftly render humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to other countries in the region.
Moreover, Indian Air Force is well equipped with rugged C-130J “Super Hercules” and C-17 Globemaster-III, which can swiftly airlift heavy loads and combat ready troops.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj is currently travelling to Saudi Arabia. India was invited as Guest of Honour at janadriyah cultural festival where India is showcasing its social, economic and cultural aspects in specifically designed pavilion in Riyadh. She is meeting Saudi leadership to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues.
On Monday, Maldives crisis was deepened when President Abdulla refused to comply with the Supreme Court orders to release opposition leaders. Parliament was sealed while two opposition lawmakers were detained.
Late on Monday night President Abdulla Yameen office declared state of emergency for 15 days. Two Supreme Court judges, including the Chief Justice, and former President Maumoon Abdul Ghayoom were detained during the night.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to three Middle Eastern countries between February 9 and 12 that will take him to Palestine, UAE and Oman. UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, several countries including India and China issued travel advisories to their citizens for avoiding unnecessary travel to Maldives which may hit its tourism industry. Other steps which are actively being considered include placing travel “sanction” against the members of the Yameen government.
President Abdulla Yameen, who assumed office in November 2013, imposed state of emergency on Monday defying a Supreme Court ruling quashing convictions of former President Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition figures ranging from terrorism to corruption and ordered to release them on the ground that the cases against them were politically tainted. Opposition allege that 2013 elections were rigged and claims that opposition leaders were jailed to curb the right to freedom of speech.
Mohamed Nasheed became first democratically elected president in 2009, who was forced to resign amid a mutiny by police in 2012. After losing the election to incumbent president Abdulla Yameen the following year, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2015 on charges that are alleged to have been concocted by Yameen’s government.
However, in 2016, Nasheed was allowed to leave jail to seek medical treatment abroad. He was granted asylum by Britain in 2016. On Monday, when Supreme Court ordered for the release of the opposition leaders, Nasheed was in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is willing to contest presidential election due later this year. Immediately after Yameen declared a 15-day emergency late on Monday night, Nasheed called on India to intervene.
During his presidency, Nasheed had drawn world attention to the Maldives by conducting an underwater cabinet meeting, with the ministers wearing scuba diving suits, to highlight the dangers posed by global warming to low-lying island nations like his own.
Present crisis was triggered immediately after Supreme Court quashed the convictions against Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition leaders. The apex court ordered the release of those in detention and instructed for fresh trials in the court.
On Wednesday, Mohamed Nasheed, former President, while in Colombo, informed his follower about the arrest of Qasim Ibrahim, a business magnet, philanthropist and politician. Qasim is also founder of Jumhoori Party as well as Villa Shipping and Trading Company.
Hon Qasim’s son, Ibrahim, has been arrested. This is clearly politically motivated. This disgraceful, illegal arrest must be reversed and he must be immediately freed.— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 7, 2018
More importantly, the Supreme Court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers who had been stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen’s party for defecting last year. The Supreme Court said that their removal was unconstitutional.
President Abdulla Yameen seems to be concerned that implementation of SC order will bring down his government as his party will lose its majority in the 85 member assembly. Should opposition achieve mathematical supremacy in the house, it would be able to remove the speaker from the ruling party and pass no-confidence motion against government officials.
While declaring emergency, President Yameen’s office said that Supreme Court had “disrupted functions of the executive and infringed national security and public interest”. It also said that constitution could eventually be undermined if the court order was implemented. Yameen said he had acted to prevent a coup and alleged the judges had sided with his opponents who were under investigation for corruption.
The United States, EU and India have urged Yameen to heed the court decision, but he has disregarded international calls to solve the crisis through dialogue.