With the Maldives government imposing political emergency, all eyes are on India and options it will exercise to resolve the worsening crisis in the Indian Ocean atoll nation.India has voices its concern and underlined that it is disturbed over the suspension of constitutional rights of people of the Maldives.

The Maldives crisis poses a diplomatic test for the Modi government amid calls for India to intervene and stabilise the situation in the island nation.In a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, India has expressed its concern over the suspension of constitutional rights of the people of Maldives and said that it will be closely monitoring the situation. While it is looking at implementing sanctions to force the Yameen government to restore normalcy, it is not keen on sending troops on the ground or even a special envoy. This is despite former president Mohamed Nasheed’s request through a tweet “to send an envoy, backed by its military to release judges and political detainees”. India, along with China, has issued travel advisory on travelling to this popular tourist destination and is considering placing restrictions on members of the Yameen government travelling abroad.

In a quite anticipated move, the government of Maldives declared a 15-day emergency and arrested opposition leader and two Supreme Court judges after the island nation erupted in protests against the government’s refusal to implement the Supreme Court ruling to free nine political prisoners. The declaration of emergency gives the government wide powers to curb democratic rights, make arbitrary arrests and seize property.

While opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (former President and Mr Yameen’s half-brother) was arrested on charges of bribery and attempt to overthrow the government, there was so clarity on the reason behind the arrest of the two judges. Immediately after the emergency was declared, security forces entered the Supreme Court building to arrest the judges.

Addressing the nation, President Yameen said that “though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected”. He justified the situation on the grounds that the Supreme Court order to release the political prisoners, including former President Nasheed was an “infringement of national security and public interest” since it impinged upon the powers of the state. Ever since the court verdict was issued, Mr Yameen came down heavily on the judges insisting that the Supreme Court has been neglecting the government’s letters raising concerns regarding the difficulties of implementing the order as the cases against the political prisoners are at different legal stages.

However, it is apparent that President Yameen fears that his authoritarian powers would be gradually slipping away if such an extreme measure is not taken. The government has refrained from commenting on the security forces storming the Supreme Court building or the arrests made. Former President Nasheed has termed this decision as unconstitutional and illegal.



With President Yameen Abdul Gayoom yet to implement the court verdict ordering the release of nine political prisoners, including the democratically elected former president Mohammed Nasheed, the island nation faces the possibility of an emergency that will plunge it deeper into  a crisis.

Jailed in 2016 on charges of terrorism, Mr Nasheed has since then lived in Britain after travelling there on medical leave from prison. Shortly after his release, the former president announced his decision to contest elections, unsettling Mr Yameen’s plan of running for re-election virtually unopposed with most of his opponents behind bars or in exile. The court also reinstated 12 opposition Members of Parliament, who had been disqualified during a combined opposition attempt to impeach Yameen in 2016.

With anti-government protestors demanding the removal of Mr Yameen, Attorney General Mohamed Anilhas warned against any attempt by the Supreme Court to order the impeachment of the president. He maintained that the president can be ousted only through a vote in parliament and no “illegitimate set of people” have the right to make such a decision.

India has urged the Maldivian government to “respect and abide” by the ruling and restore law and order. With President Gayoom firing the country’s police chief for the latter’s support of the court decision, the capital Male erupted in protests that lasted for about three hours. India has been a severe critic of the authoritarian rule of Mr Gayoom’s government, which has stalled democratic reforms and has deepened its control of the judiciary, police and the bureaucracy.

The court ruling of February 1 came as a welcome surprise for those who long for a return to democratic rule. The opposition alliance has called for Mr Gayoom’s resignation, stating that the ruling “effectively ends President Yameen’s authoritarian rule.” Declaring its support for a “stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives”, India’s Ministry of External affairs in its statement expressed concern regarding the safety and security of the Indian expatriates living on the island nation.

Two lawmakers from among the 12 who were reinstated were arrested by the police on February 3 upon their arrival from overseas. Throughout the weekend, military personnel kept a tight guard around the parliament building, preventing lawmakers from entering. “We are working on making sure we can respect the Supreme Court’s order in a way that doesn’t cause any difficulties to the people,” Mr Yameen said during a rally organized by his party even as he has declared a war against the judges.There have been reports that his administration is looking to sack Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, by filing false cases against them.





India’s relations with the Maldives, the picturesque atoll nation in the Indian Ocean, has been in rough waters for some time now. The ongoing visit of Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr Mohamed Asim as a special envoy of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom to Delhi is seen as an attempt to reset this crucial relationship, underpinned by close geographical proximity, strategic calculations and development partnership.

“While there is no specific agenda for the visit, we expect close bilateral consultations,” Mr Asim said. He added that the focus would be on advancing bilateral ties on the basis on pacts signed during President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to Delhi in April 2016. He is accompanied by Foreign Secretary Ahmed Sareer and Aishath Azeema, joint secretary in Maldives foreign ministry.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held wide-ranging talks with her Maldivian counterpart in New Delhi on January 11. The two ministers focused on resetting relations in view of a spate of negative reports suggesting a deepening chill in India-Maldives ties.

The thorn in the bilateral ties has been the Free Trade Agreement with China that Maldives had hurriedly signed in November last year, which was perceived by India as going against its “India first” policy, and the island nation’s endorsement of the Belt and Road initiative that New Delhi has been opposing. Moreover, the media loyal to President Gayoom has been critical of the present Indian government and Prime Minister Modi in particular, accusing them of promoting a hard-line Hindutva agenda.

Restrictions were also placed on the movements of India’s ambassador to the Maldives Akhilesh Mishra. In addition, India’s support for the former ousted President Mohammed Nasheed, who is presently under a jail term and New Delhi’s official invitation to him, has only sharpened tensions between New Delhi and Male. Mr Modi has not visited the Maldives ever since he took office after planned visit in March 2015 was cancelled in the aftermath of the clampdown on political protests in Male.

The opposition in Maldives has already been critical of the President’s decision to send a special envoy saying that it is to “avoid direct interaction with his Indian counterpart, either forced by China not to, or he is too proud and big”.




0,,18277059_303,00The recent events in Maldives beginning with the arrest and detention of Defence Minister Nazim on January 8 on grounds of plotting a coup and the subsequent arrest of former President Mohammed Nasheed on February 22 on terrorism charges indicate a growing tendency towards despotism by President Yameen. These two arrests come in a series of other high profile sackings, including that of the Health Minister, the Chief Justice and a brother Judge of the Supreme Court (impeached by the Majlis on charges of ‘gross misconduct’ without stating the nature of misconduct) and that of the Auditor General. All this within a year of Yameen’s coming to power substantiates the charge that the island nation is headed for a turbulent dictatorship. Turbulent because Yameen’s course will not be smooth and would be strongly opposed and resisted.

A closer examination of the charges against the prime accused would bear out the fact that President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom brooks no opposition and is intolerant of dissent. First, the two Judges, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan, were removed by the Majlis mainly because they were the only two judges that had not supported Yameen’s dubious accession to Presidency. A recall of the events of September to November 2014 presidential elections clearly demonstrate that Yameen’s victory was made possible only by the Judiciary repeatedly thwarting and subverting the mandate of the people who had twice voted overwhelmingly in favour Mohammed Nasheed.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim was removed on a technicality that the Audit Act predated the 2008 Constitution and thereby did not envisage current responsibilities of the post. The real reason was that he had released an incriminating report against Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheed, a close confidant of the President, implicating him in a corruption scandal of over $6 million.

As for Defence Minister Nazim, it was revealed that in an early morning raid on his house, the police found a pistol and three cartridges. They had also seized a pen drive that revealed certain incriminating documents. The prosecution contended that the documents show that Nazim was conspiring with opposition leader Gasim Ibrahim to harm senior government officials.

In a country where the defence forces have held a gun to the head of their Commander-in-Chief, President Nasheed in February 2012, the Defence Minister must have thought it wise to at least have a pistol and a couple of cartridges to face the unpredictable force that he was commanding. To suggest that he was plotting a coup with the meagre arms that he possessed appears a bit farfetched.

The real charge was that Nazim was getting close to Gasim Ibrahim (one of the richest businessmen in Maldives who had fallen out of favour with President Yameen after being a coalition partner from November 2013 to May 2014) and was plotting to undermine the present government. This may be difficult to prove in a court of law, for almost everyone in Maldives wants to be close to Gasim Ibrahim because he is so liberal with his money. Whether it is sending one’s child to a school in Bangalore or an aged parent for medical treatment to Trivandrum, it is to Gasim Ibrahim that the Maldivians turn to. His charity and generosity have earned him such a fervent following that his supporters caused a riot when the police turned up at his house after the raid on Nazim’s house on January 8. The government wisely decided to defer his arrest.

Then came the arrest of former President Nasheed on charges terrorism for reportedly ordering the arrest and detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Hameed in January 2012. Why was this arrest carried out after three years? Why was he not arrested before and convicted so that he could have been easily prevented from contesting the Presidential elections in 2013? That’s where India comes in.

Soon after the controversial coup in February 2012 that overthrew the first democratically elected President of Maldives Mohammed Nasheed, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had taken a commitment from the then President Waheed that Nasheed would not be imprisoned; free and fair elections would be held within 6 months and that Nasheed would be allowed to contest the elections. It is a different matter that Waheed did not stick to the election schedule but he ensured that Nasheed remained free to contest and campaign for the Presidential polls that were finally held from September to November 2013.

The fact that Nasheed emerged a clear leader with 45.45% of popular vote share as against Yameen’s 25.35% and Gasim Ibrahim’s 24.07% in the first round of elections on September 7 was a resounding indictment of the perpetrators of the coup. But they were not ready to accept the verdict of the people. Yameen and his elder step-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled Maldives for over 30 years, had other plans. First, they used the Judiciary to go on postponing the second round till Gasim was humbled to a distant third position and then persuaded (or arm-twisted) to support Yameen. After all, the shenanigans Yameen barely managed to secure 51.9% against Nasheed’s 48.6% in the final round held on November 16, 2013.

When the Maldivian Judiciary repeatedly interfered with the expression of popular mandate, India had issued a strong demarche by the then Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid calling “for holding the run-off elections as scheduled” and adding that “India was deeply disappointed and distressed with the postponement of the run-off”.

The Modi government has demonstrated a sharp sense of deeper engagement with the neighbours, right from the day of the swearing in of Prime Minister Modi. It was widely expected that he would exercise a more muscular foreign policy. Surprisingly, our official response to events in Male has been timid and even that has been rebuffed by the Foreign Minister of Maldives.

Is it too much to acknowledge some leaders in the neighborhood as our friends and stand by them?

(Ravi Joshi is a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. He is a retired senior R&AW officer who had served in Maldives for three years on a diplomatic assignment)

Courtesy: Economic Times online edition, March 5, 2015.

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