Diplomacy Opinion Politics

Examining India’s declination of a visit by the Maldives special envoy

Trouble has been brewing in the Maldives for a while now and Abdulla Yameen, the president, declared a state of emergency a little over 2 weeks ago plunging the island nation into crisis. A few days later, news emerged that India had declined a visit by a special envoy of the president. This post is an attempt to examine that decision using Graham Allison’s three models of government decision-making.

Model 3 — Governmental politics model

This model bases a decision of a government on the outcome of the negotiations that go on between various actors in the government or bureaucracy (or due to the political forces operating inside a country and the games of oneupmanship between them). There are no indications that different actors within the government or bureaucracy have different positions on the governments’s policy on the Maldives. There are no apparent reasons for that either. Also, the government doesn’t gain any political mileage by declining the visit of the envoy. This model clearly didn’t seem to have a part to play in this decision.

Model 2 — Organizational process model

This model bases a government decision on the processes and procedures followed by organizations (read ministries in this case) within a government. In this case, the two organizations involved would be the PMO and the MEA. There’s no precedence since the advent of this government that the two have not acted in unison. On the other hand, while one may argue that some of the MEA’s functions have been subsumed by the PMO, the cohesion between the two has never been a matter to ponder upon. Considering that, it’s highly unlikely that the envoy’s visit was declined by the MEA merely because of procedural reasons (since the PM and Minister of External Affairs weren’t available). That then takes this model too out of consideration.

Model 1 — Rational actor model

This brings us to the Rational Actor model. This model is based on the assumption that the government is a monolith, a black box, and its behaviour is similar to the behaviour of a perfectly rational individual, who when asked to choose between multiple options, choose the one that maximizes his/her gains.

Looking at the how the Maldives situation has been evolving over years, it is obvious that it is has moved away from being under Indian influence to now being under Chinese influence.

Under such circumstances, and with a government at the helm that isn’t favourably disposed towards India, what is the outcome that would have been the best from an Indian perspective ? India would have surely wanted the emergency lifted, the Supreme court restored to its earlier configuration and the government to honor the court’s verdict to release all opposition leaders .

Did India get nearer to that objective by declining the envoy’s visit ? Surely, it didn’t expect Maldives to take a subtle hint, see it as a threat to use military force and reverse the emergency ? If that objective wasn’t achieved, what then was achieved ? The next thing that one can think of is that the government conveyed its displeasure by declining the visit. That seems to be the only purpose served by the decline which brings one to the question, was that really the action of a rational actor ? Shouldn’t the government have instead received the envoy and conveyed its displeasure in a diplomatic manner with a subtle hint that military action is an option on the table ? Would a “carrot and stick” approach not have been better ?

Model 0 — The rational but emotional actor (to be renamed appropriately by more pedigreed political scientists in the time to come)

That then brings us to the point of this article. It seems emotion had a fair role to play in this decision. This kind of decision making is attributed here to the “rational but emotional actor”. The key characteristics of the model are that the actor has a clear idea of the overall outcome but uses emotions to take decisions to reach that outcome.

Looking back at some of the decisions taken earlier related to India’s immediate neighbourhood, such as the decision by the PM to stopover at Lahore (let love help make a new beginning !) and the decision to let the blockade of Nepal linger on (let’s teach Nepal a lesson !), it does seem that at least when it comes to handling situations in the neighbourhood, emotion plays a significant part in decision making. While the outcome seems to be thought through, the means to achieve that seems to have come more from the heart and not from the mind.

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Source URL: Medium

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