Nasheed’s tweet may have produced two undesired effects for India. If anyone in the Yameen dispensation were to take Nasheed and the Indian media seriously, it could mean another period of cold vibes between the two countries.

Nasheed, domestic issues, Maldives, media reports, procedural flaws, crackdown, intervention, democracy, Yameen dispensation, cold vibes, N. Sathiyamoorthy
Flickr user Dying Regime

The delayed Chinese reaction to Maldivian political developments of the past week and more should be noted for its timing. Like India, the US and much of the rest of the world, China had issued a ‘travel advisory’ for tourists travelling to Maldives after tension hit the streets of capital Male over the Supreme Court ordering immediate freedom for nine ‘political prisoners’, starting with self-exiled former President Mohammed Nasheed, who is sentenced for a 13-year prison-term, on the night of Thursday, 1 February.

As anticipated, incumbent President, Abdulla Yameen followed up the omnibus court order, which also sweepingly reversed its own earlier rulings in most individual cases, but only after writing to the Supreme Court, citing constitutional provisions and seeking a wholesale reversal instead. Rather than revisiting or reopening the case(s), or coming out with the rationale for its omnibus order, the court threw out President Yameen’s communication and the Government’s petitions relating to individual cases.

If Yameen used the Supreme Court’s very own procedural flaws (which it had accused the State with, in its omnibus order), to justify an imminent crackdown, he has since gone public, raising concerns about (Nasheed) seeking India’s intervention, with stand-by military, to restore democracy in his country. If it may be bad politics on the domestic front, Nasheed’s tweet has proved to be bad diplomacy for India, when the latter did not seek or plan any such intervention.


If Yameen used the Supreme Court’s very own procedural flaws (which it had accused the State with, in its omnibus order), to justify an imminent crackdown, he has since gone public, raising concerns about (Nasheed) seeking India’s intervention, with stand-by military, to restore democracy in his country.


Adding fuel to the fire was unsubstantiated Indian media reports that India had ‘alerted’ the armed forces, without citing sources or explaining what it was for. It is customary for India, as for any other nation in India’s position, to ‘alert’ its armed forces, as also its diplomatic corps in the neighbourhood and in faraway UN headquarters and affiliates at Geneva, to keep their eyes and ears open for any eventuality and possible follow-up. In recent years and decades, India has always had ever-ready army teams waiting for peacetime interventions for humanitarian work, as the Boxer Day tsunami of 2004 showed up, to the neighbourhood and the world at large.

Cold vibes

Nasheed’s tweet may have produced two undesired effects for India. If anyone in the Yameen dispensation were to take Nasheed and the Indian media seriously, it could mean another period of cold vibes between the two countries. As may be recalled, only in the post-China FTA period did Male and New Delhi try re-working their mutual indifference and consequent strains of the past, with Yameen despatching his Foreign Minister, Dr. Mohamed Asim, to New Delhi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi readily accepting the invitation for visiting Maldives, hopefully in 2018.

Considered an outside under-writer of the Yameen leadership in the international arena, especially after Maldives moved steadily away from India and the rest of the democratic world, China has since come out openly against ‘outside intervention’ of the kind the Nasheed had sought from India. China did not name India or any other nation, but coming as it did only hours after Nasheed’s tweet, it meant that Beijing only had New Delhi in mind. China said that it should be left to Maldivians to sort out the differences. In diplomatic terms, it is saying a lot.

The fact may still remain that Nasheed’s main suggestion for India to despatch an envoy to help sort out domestic issues in Maldives may have had some substance and meaning — if only unaccompanied by his reference to Indian ‘military’ and speculative media reports in India. Despite the reforms-induced, post-Cold War neo-image on the world stage, India still has to come fully out of the shocks inflicted by playing ‘facilitator’ in neighbouring Sri Lanka in the Eighties and ending up bruising its regional pride, global presence, and also that of the IPKF peacekeepers.

Nasheed’s main suggestion for India to despatch an envoy to help sort out domestic issues in Maldives may have had some substance and meaning — if only unaccompanied by his reference to Indian ‘military’ and speculative media reports in India.


Nasheed’s main suggestion for India to dispatch an envoy to help sort out domestic issues in the Maldives may have had some substance and meaning — if only unaccompanied by his reference to Indian ‘military’ and speculative media reports in India.


If anything, the incumbent Modi government has only withdrawn more from peace-making role in the island-nation, where again domestic politics and ethnic issues are returning to a boiling-point, at various levels and paces. It will also has to reconcile itself to the unmentioned Yameen camp complaint that it was India’s initiative for Modi to visit Maldives as a part of his imaginative four-nation, Indian Ocean neighbourhood trip in March 2015, from which New Delhi dropped Maldives out, over domestic developments, without possibly assigning convincing reasons and justification.

Bribery charge

The Maldivian police has since claimed that arrested Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed had taken millions of dollars in bribes from former President and Yameen’s half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for passing the ‘omnibus order’. The police has also arrested Gayoom in this regard, though it may take time before they are called upon to produce evidence in the matter. In particular, the police may be keen to source the dollars that they claim Gayoom had paid the judges.

In between, Yameen amended his Emergency proclamation a second time, to exempt court orders from its coverage. With that, the residual three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court lost no time in passing an order, withdrawing the ‘omnibus order’ freeing Nasheed and the rest. Indications are that the court will reopen hearings on the presidential communication relating to the ‘omnibus order’, to jailed C.J. Saeed, who needs to either resign or be impeached. A third alternative would be for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) from which a Saeed-led Supreme Court had exempted itself but which power was restored by the residual Bench, to probe and report to the President, who could then act on it.

The residual Bench has not cancelled the five-Judge, Full Bench ruling, restoring the membership of 12 ‘defector MPs’, who can give the Joint Opposition a working majority in the 85-member Parliament. This could imply that Yameen is still confident of facing off Parliament whenever he finds it comfortable for Speaker Abdulla Maseeh to reconvene the House, and deliver the annual address, which was earlier scheduled for 5 February but was cancelled.

Just now, the international community in general, and sections of the global media in particular, is keenly watching Maldives, not necessarily in the cause of ‘democracy’ and ‘justice for Nasheed’, but more so linking it all to the strategically-located Indian Ocean archipelago playing host to an otherwise avoidable India-China diplomatic tiff, which in turn could usher in a new Cold War. In the nearly-forgotten earlier one, Europe was the theatre and there again, the US, insulated from the rest of the world by geography, played the distant cheer-leader, critics say, arguing that Washington has since succeeded in replacing Europe and the Soviet Union with India and China, respectively. But then, New Delhi may not be yielding as much or as fast, limiting its concerns to its neighbourhood perceptions.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

Comments

avatar
wpDiscuz

Upcoming Events

Talk by Dr Happymon Jacob On Ceasefire Violations and current state of India-Pakistan Relations

People

N. Sathiya Moorthy