International

Democracy is Sinking in Maldives

Maldives

Flexibility is the key to stability — The Maldivian president is not open to flexibility. The result has been weeks of political emergency and instability. The matter is getting complicated in Maldives, and the situation is worsening every single moment. The exotic beaches and holiday spots are no longer representative of Maldives in front of the global fraternity; today, it is the island of autocratic rule and anti-democratic regimes. As the island nation’s democracy is ailing, India too has a lot to worry about.

The Situation in Maldives

Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen declared a fifteen-day national emergency, accusing the judiciary of ‘attempting to destabilize the government.’ The national emergency gives extraordinary powers to the Head of the State, who is also the commander of the central forces and the army. The judges of the Supreme Court are under house arrest and almost all major leaders of the opposition are put behind the bars. It all began with the court verdict in favor of 12 members of the parliament.

Since his election in 2013, Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen has been on the path of clearing the political challenges arising against him. Way back in 2015, the former president and a close ally of India Mohammed Nasheed was sentenced for 13 years in prison for the charges, which many views as attempts to oppress his dissent against the ruling regime. Later, he managed to leave Mali for medical assistance in London and since then, is in exile in Sri Lanka. Though these events lead to the formation of the present crisis, it was the court decision to overturn the charges against Mohammed Nasheed and 12 defectors from Yameen’s ruling party, that lead to the declaration of national emergency and the house arrest of the supreme court judges. Had the decision of the court been carried out, it would have led to a possible no-confidence motion against the government, as the opposition would have gained enough majority with the help of those twelve ousted MPs. This crisis also gave a clear picture of the power consolidation by the ruling regime, since their inception. Many observers believe that this new move is aimed at gaining an upper hand in the general elections due in 2018.

Dilemmas for India

Maldives was, for a long period of time, India’s ally. Both the countries signed a free-trade agreement way back in the year 1981. According to the deal, both the countries have waivers on exports and imports. For a long period of time, this worked well as India exported river-sand and other industrial products whereas the island nation exported tuna to the subcontinent. However, things started falling apart in the later 1990’s when India showed the least interest in improving the relations with the country. It was also the time when the Chinese economy started to grow in the vacuum created by the fall of USSR. As the new millennium started, Beijing became an undisputed power not only in Asia but also in the global economy as well. This also created a strategic situation where the dragon had to expand its wings over the Indian ocean as well. This expansion of Chinese economy reached the shores of Maldives in 2011 when the then president Mohammed Nasheed allowed the Chinese to open an embassy in the Male capital. Though this move raised the eyebrows of Indian diplomacy, the relation between China and Male crossed the red line when they signed a Free-Trade Agreement in 2015. Although the Yameen regime proposed a similar agreement with the Modi government soon after, it is highly suspected that China is using the Maldives as a trade-hub to route the goods from Chinese economy to India en route the island nation. With the recent crisis, it has been clear that the Maldives no longer follows India First policy; today it is China First.

What India Can and Should Do?

It will take another couple of days for the political situation to unfold. At this point of time, the best act is to not act. Since the emergency is an internal issue, it is highly unlikely for India to get international support in case of a military intervention. However, the eyes of the diplomacy must be kept wide open, and every development must be watched closely. As a nation with substantial interests in the Indian Ocean region, India cannot compromise the stability of the region or a strengthened Chinese presence in its backyard.

– Contributed by : Jiss Palelil

Image Source: corporatemaldives.com



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