An intervention plan for New Delhi
Earlier this month, I argued for an Indian political intervention in the Maldives, backed by military force.
Neither the UPA government nor the Modi government seem to care that a strategic Indian Ocean neighbour has been taken over by an autocratic regime so confident of Chinese support that it feels emboldened to go beyond merely thumbing its nose at New Delhi. It’s poking us in the eye.
The case for a hard Indian intervention is so strong, the international context so conducive, the military equation so overwhelmingly favourable that we must ask: if not now, when? Will we wait for construction of a foreign naval base to start at Feydhoo Finolhu near Male before we decide to intervene? What use are grand conferences, declarations of being “an Indian Ocean power”, “a net-security provider” or vasudaiva kutumbakam, when governments in New Delhi are disinclined to forcefully protect India’s own core interests? [INI]
After internal discussions with my colleagues at Takshashila and with others with deeper knowledge of the Maldives, I had outlined the purpose and nature of an Indian intervention.
- Get President Yameen to step down. It is unlikely that he can be persuaded to depart without the threat and the use of force. The initial mission for Indian armed forces would be to secure the airport, the government installations in Male and key ports and jetties that connect important towns. It is possible that they will encounter armed resistance from official and unofficial elements, requiring them to have orders to shoot if they are shot at.
- Start the Constitutional Reset, by creating an interim government led by Abdulla Jihad, the vice president and constitutional next-in-line. Indian interlocutors and the international community must persuade Maldivian security forces and administration to accept and support the interim government.
- Require the interim government to carry out the Constitutional Reset by immediately revoking the Emergency, reinstating the imprisoned judges of the Supreme Court, releasing all political prisoners and advancing the elections. Indian security forces might be required to be present on the ground in the Maldives during this phase, primarily to ensure public order and prevent outbreak of violence between political factions.
- Indian security forces must withdraw from Maldives’ soil as soon as the interim government is stable and has acquired control over the country. This process is likely to take a few weeks. Even as the troops withdraw, the Indian Navy could remain on standby in the vicinity until after the electoral process has been completed.
- India’s political intervention must not attempt to review the contracts with foreign countries signed by the Yameen regime. Nor should it influence the outcome of elections, as long as they are conducted in a free and fair manner.
Imposing a Constitutional Reset will be consistent with setting the Maldives back on a democratic trajectory and demonstrating that India is capable of using hard power to promote its core interests in the region. From the statements of the United States, Britain and the European Union, it is clear that such an intervention will have their tacit or explicit support. China is likely to object, but unlikely to go beyond very strong words.
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