Event ReportsPublished on Feb 24, 2015
With Maldives again in the midst of political chaos, its former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem says India can play a crucial role in taking the country out of the crisis by keeping a close watch on it and helping reform the judiciary to ensure that the Yameen administration does not kill off democracy.
Crisis in Maldives: Testing time for India?

Noting that the current political situation in Maldives is heating up and leading to a crisis situation, the former Foreign Minister of the Maldives, Mr. Ahmed Naseem, said the chaos and authoritarianism of the presidencies of Abdulla Yameen and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom are giving rise to instability, worries and Islamic extremism in the country.

Presenting his talk on ’The Maldives: Current Political Situation’ at Observer Research Foundation on February 20, Mr. Naseem expressed concerns about President Yameen’s Look East policy to embrace China and the Chinese plan for a maritime silk road which, according to him, will promote Chinese military interest rather than developing the Maldives’ economy.

Highlighting the importance of India for the Maldives, he suggested India can play a crucial role in taking the Maldives out of this crisis by keeping a close watch on the country and helping reform the Maldives judiciary to ensure that the Yameen administration does not kill off democracy.

In his opening remarks, the chair of the event, Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Distinguished fellow, ORF observed that the democratic transition under Mr. Mohammed Nasheed, former President of Maldives, had brought about internal and external transformation in the country. In comparison to the progress which the Maldives was making under Mr. Nasheed, he highlighted the dramatic reversal which took place under Mr. Yameen which has not only impacted the political situation but has also affected the security, law and order situation and judicial system of the country.

Giving a review of violent events in the run up to and following the presidential elections of 2013, Mr. Omar Razak, former Maldives State Minister for the South Central Region, talked about the deteriorating law and order condition in the Maldives. This has caused violation of human rights, proliferated corrupt schemes, and led to political turmoil, street violence, abductions and threats to property and life in the region. Mr. Razak criticised the autocratic regime of President Yaameen and Abdul Gayoom as being responsible for practicing such high handed tactics.

Speaking about the rising religious extremism in Maldives, Mr. Ameen Faisal, former Maldives National Security Advisor and Defence Ministe,r highlighted the regime change of February 7, 2012 which was enacted by the country’s former elite through a combination of extremist Islamic groups, gangs and the acquiescence of corrupt justices in the judiciary. Giving the background of the Maldivian Democratic Party which is especially desirous for India to support the Maldives in rooting out extremist elements from the military and the police, he cautioned about the grave danger that such a set up poses to not only the future stability of the Maldives but also to the security of the wider region and in particular India.

He mentioned a few events and incidents which have purportedly caused Maldivians to join armed groups in hotspots such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria. Expressing his hope, he drew attention to the expertise and resources which India has which can be used for monitoring and investigation purposes in Maldives.

Looking ahead, Mr. Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesperson for International Affairs, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), shared that his party has declared that "the Indian Ocean is India’s Ocean" and had opened up the economy to Indian business, intelligence sharing and signed GMR’s contact to manage and upgrade the main international airport. However, under Yameen’s administration there has been an increasing anti-India sentiment in the Maldives which concerns the MDP. Suggesting the urgent need for restoring and building stronger ties with India under the new administration led by Shri Narendra Modi, Mr. Ghafoor is optimistic of change in the air. He said India will be essential to safeguard the democratic institutions in the Maldives by rooting out extremist elements from the military and the police.

Mrs. Aminath Jameel, former Health Minister, gave an overview of the social insecurities and health conditions in the Maldives. She expressed her concern about the growing number of addicts on the streets of the Maldives because of the increasing number of drug dealers. This is resulting in street violence, murder and robbery in the region. Social issues such as mismanagement of hospitals, lack of employment opportunities, flogging of women, laxness in child protection, misuses of housing schemes and more are some of the other major issues which directly or indirectly are disturbing the peace and stability in the Maldives. Therefore, she mentions that the political condition of the Maldives needs to be restored to address the issues related to health and society.

The event concluded with an open discussion session. In his closing remarks, Dr. C. Raja Mohan said that along with the support of neighbour countries, the Maldives also needs strong indigenous movements. The discussion revealed fears that the situation in the Maldives poses some serious challenges to India’s foreign policy. It is going to be a testing time for India as the crisis unfolds, given the belief that President Yameen does not believe in negotiation - as highlighted during the presentations. Nevertheless, there was optimism about Mr. Modi’s visit to the Maldives, and India is sensitive to and empathises with the people of the Maldives. However, good judgement and prudence in India’s policies towards the Maldives are essential.

(This report is prepared by Richa Sekhani, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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