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U.S., India must save the Maldives

President Donald Trump from his earlier avatar as candidate Trump earned the fury of the Atlanticist establishment by seeking to change a strategic policy matrix that had continued with only minor changes since 1945.

Bill Clinton had an opportunity to recast the approaching 21st century by converting Moscow from foe to ally. Boris Yeltsin had sought such a partnership, and had bequeathed concession after concession to the Atlantic Alliance, only to be met with the humiliation of the Serbians and the eastward expansion of NATO despite the Cold War having ended in 1985 itself, with the seizing of control over USSR policy by a committed Europeanist,Mikhail Gorbachev.

Rather than recast itself,including by welcoming Russia as a member, the Clinton administration lost the peace despite Ronald Reagan having won the war against the Soviet Union. This was an outcome foreordained by the complete adherence of Clinton and his foreign and security policy team to the foundational principle of NATO,which was that Moscow remained the enemy despite the tectonic change in the nature of the Russian state.

Yeltsin was serially humilated by Clinton, who was encouraged in this by Paris, London and Berlin, all three of whom understood that they would remain the primary partners of the United States only if Russia were to remain the prime foe. Should Washington’s gaze shift to the rising superpower that was China, it would be Delhi and Tokyo that would need to be the principal allies of the United States.

Although both George W. Bush and Barack Obama sought to modify the Europe-centered and Russia-focussed Atlanticist policy, neither could make much headway against the entrenched bureaucracy and academe, whose jobs and grants depended on the same policies as had been in vogue since the second half of the 1940s, continuing despite a changed world.

With a businessman’s instinct, Trump recognized this change, and the need to reset policy to accommodate rather than ignore it. He called for a much tougher line on China and for making Russia at least a friend, if not an ally. A telephone call was made by the president-elect to Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen. Words of friendship were sent in the direction of Moscow, where the security establishment, anxious over the Russophobe measures initiated by Clinton, had more than a decade back ensured that the former KGB’s star operative, Vladimir Putin, replaced Yeltsin.

Concerned over the rising dependence of Moscow on Beijing, Putin responded, even holding back retaliatory action against the final Russophobe measures of Obama. The world has changed, and as pointed out by Edwin Feulner, founder of the Heritage Foundation, Asia now has more than double the trade the United States has with Europe. The pivot of global geopolitics was no longer the North Atlantic but the Indo-Pacific, the confluence of the Indian and Pacific oceans

Despite hysterical efforts at removing him from his present job as the 45th president of the United States, Trump has fought back against the Atlanticist effort to stun him into continuing with the stale, failed policies of his three most recent predecessors. Once the effort by the Clinton-leaning Beltway cop Robert Mueller to impeach him fails, Trump will be able to fashion the paradigm shift in policy needed to ensure that the United States regains the primacy that it began to lose from the 1990s onward.

Among the key steps would be a robust 21st century alliance with India designed to ensure that sea lane access and policy sovereignty get retained by Indo-Pacific powers against efforts by revisionist countries to change such realities. An alliance matures not through meetings of lawyers and diplomats but through ordeal by fire– enemy fire — by joint action designed to ensure that the strategic objectives of the alliance are met.

The most important of these has to be the primacy of the United States and its 21st century allies across the Indo-Pacific. And for this, the best of relations is needed with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, all three of which will be core to any Indo-Pacific strategy of primacy. Of these, the past days have witnessed a deepening of the political upheaval in the Maldives, caused by the reaching out for dictatorial power by Abdulla Yameen, who illegally toppled the legitimate head of state, Mohammad Nasheed.

This was achieved through a civilian coup carried out with the help of police, military and bureaucratic heads who had been “influenced” into backing Yameen by generous dollops of Wahabbi resources. Over the past 27 months especially, a moderate country has been undergoing a convulsive effort at transformation into a wahabbized state, much the way Egypt began to change under Mohammad Morsi. That country liberated itself from extremist control and so can the Maldives, if India and the United States act together to ensure a return to democracy in a country that is an essential partner in any overall Indo-Pacific strategy.

From the start of his misrule, it has been obvious that Yameen cares not a whit for democracy. Using the power of the executive, he managed through compliant officials to cobble together a majority in Parliament through expelling some members.

Subsequently, he has steadily and stealthily been seeking to promote the radical effort to Wahabbize the Maldives, the way President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing in still secular Turkey, by silently overturning the modern and moderate ethos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and replacing it with a system that is daily getting infused with doses of Wahabbi ideology dressed up in camouflage.

Mohamed Nasheed, who was removed from office as president of the Maldives by Yameen and a group of Wahabbi camp followers in the police and military, was opposed to religious extremism, and this is the “crime” for which he was punished with prison and exile. Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed of the Supreme Court showed unusual spine in declaring the obvious, that the disqualification of some anti-Yameen legislators was mala fide.

Instead of accepting the rule of law, Yameen has used the law of the jungle and imprisoned Saeed. Shamefully for the institution, his brother justices developed cold feet at the thought of following the chief justice to prison, and have overturned his judgment, “because President Yameen asked for it.” The “law” in the Maldives is apparently what Yameen and his international sponsors want it to be.

Even former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (who is related to Yameen) has been jailed, even as his daughter Dunya places her shabby ministerial position above fealty to democracy and to her family by backing even this vindictive and retrogressive step of her new boss, Yameen. Given the deep pockets of the Wahabbi International, it is no suprise that the military and police forces on the Indian Ocean nation are backing the Wahabbi candidate Yameen rather than the rule of law and the verdict of the chief justice of the Maldivian Supreme Court.

It is clear that the individual legally entitled to be president of the Maldives is Nasheed rather than the usurper Yameen. That being so, the call by Nasheed for India to assist in removing the usurper President Yameen from power is legal and within the full ambit of international law defined in a democratic manner.

China, of course, has called for “restraint”, not on the part of Yameen but on the part of those powers alarmed at the destruction of democracy in the Maldives. Were India to accept such advice, it would be clear to all the countries of the Indo-Pacific that India’s backing for full sea and air access given to, and protection of sovereignty of all the powers within the Indo-Pacific is not worth the hot air expended on official statements on the matter. Words and statements are of scant value in a situation where the people of the Maldives are suffering from the ill effects of galloping Wahabbization and its attendant restrictions on individual rights and freedoms.

Just as in 1988, there needs to be kinetic assistance given to those in the Maldives who are battling to retrieve the moderation and democracy that the island nation was for so long celebrated for. If police and military units on the island remain captive to the Wahabbi International and oppose India’s “Responsibility to Protect” intervention, they need to be dealt with militarily. Some NATO member states may look askance at a Third World country doing what they believe is the exclusive prerogative of the “Herrenvolk” (i.e., themselves).

Hopefully, Trump will be able to prevail over the Clinton cohorts within the U.S. bureaucracy and back moderate Maldivians in their moves, ideally by ensuring that U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean join hands with the armed forces of the Republic of India in Operation “Restore Democracy” in the Maldives. The exigencies of geopolitics has made both India and the United States inevitable military allies, and intervention in the Maldivian crisis on the basis of the call to action by Nasheed could be a useful spur to greater cooperation between the two militaries in the future.

Once the usurper president is replaced in the seat of power by the actual president, hopefully Nasheed will hold elections within 18 months of retaking an office that he was illegally removed from, thereby giving the people of the Maldives an opportunity to vote for either Wahabbism or the moderate ethos of genuine Islam; vote for either the freedoms of a democracy or the straitjacket of an autocracy.

Immediately on retaking office, Nasheed will need to remove the small handful of police and military officials who have subverted the rule of law by disobeying the chief justice of the Supreme Court and send them to exile rather than to prison. Given the wealth of their Wahabbi patrons, such individuals are certain to have a comfortable exile in locations where Wahabbism is still a dominant force. As for China, the Chinese Communist Party is nothing if not pragmatic, and a return of the ousted leader is certain to be followed by overtures to him from Beijing.

The Indo-Pacific has already far outstripped the Atlantic Ocean as the primary pivot of the 21st century, despite efforts by the East Coast establishment in the United States together with some NATO member states, to pretend the opposite, that the Atlantic Ocean is still as dominant in global commerce and diplomacy as was the case in the half-century after 1945.

To fulfill its natural role as the lynchpin of security and access within the eastern side of the Indo-Pacific, there needs to be credibility attached to Delhi’s protestations of intent and capability. The Lutyens Zone ensured that India took a pass in the global war on the Islamic State by refusing to join either of the coalitions battling the terror group, that led by the United States and the other led by Russia and Iran.

Ideally, it should have joined both, by joining the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus forces in Syria and the Washington-Baghdad partnership in Iraq, thereby preserving strategic independence from what may be called the New Cold War considerations. This new Cold War, which is yet another offshoot of Atlanticist logic, has the United States and some of its allies facing off against Russia and China in multiple theaters.

In 1988, the Lutyens Zone warned Rajiv Gandhi against intervention in the Maldives, but the then prime minister went ahead, thereby boosting India’s reliability as a partner. Now that another call for intervention from the elected authority of the Maldives has come, Trump and Narendra Modi need to show the same spine as Gandhi did, by ensuring that the Wahabbized army and police in the Maldives are stopped from blocking the democratic rights and freedoms of the Maldivian people, more than 90 percent of whom share with 98 percent of their Muslim counterparts in India the qualities of modernity and moderation.

Should the United States and India fail this test of will, few in the Indo-Pacific will take seriously Delhi and Washington’s claim of being the most effective and reliable partner for all those powers in the Indo-Pacific that seek to protect their rights and freedoms from encroachment.

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