Since taking power last year, U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to change the Europe-centered and Russia-focussed strategic policy framework of the country prevalent from 1945, which has been resisted by the entrenched establishment.
In coming years, one of the changes Trump may push for is to regain the global primacy of the United States and its allies particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, which would require good relationships with countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
In this context the current political upheaval in the Maldives, triggered by the dictatorial moves of President Abdulla Yameen, who earlier illegally toppled the legitimate head of state, Mohammad Nasheed by a civilian coup carried out with the help of police, military and bureaucratic heads, gains importance.
Moderate Country Becoming ‘Wahabbized’
In the past months, the Maldives a moderate country has been coming under pressure to transform into a ‘wahabbized’ state which can be stopped if India and the United States act together.
Yameen has been steadily working to promote the efforts by radicals to ‘Wahabbize’ the Maldives, similar to the efforts of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Mohammad Morsi in Egypt.
A crisis erupted recently when Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed of the Supreme Court ruled that the disqualification of some anti-Yameen legislators was mala fide. Yameen in response arrested and imprisoned Saeed. Other justices subsequently overturned his judgment, stating that President Yameen had “asked for it.”
India Must Give Support To Maldives
Given that Nasheed remains the legal head of state, his call in recent weeks for India to assist in removing President Yameen from power can be considered legal and within the full ambit of international law as per Madhav Das Nalapat, the director of the Department of Geopolitics & International Relations at Manipal University, and UNESCO peace chair.
China has however urged “restraint”. If India accepts this advice, then it would be clear to all countries in the region that India’s support for full sea and air access given to, and for the protection of sovereignty of all the powers within the Indo-Pacific has little value.
Similar to the support extended in 1988 to Maldives from India, there needs to assistance given to those in the Maldives who are seeking to revive democracy in the island nation.
Nalapat hopes that Trump will come out in the open and back moderate Maldivians in their moves, ideally by placing U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean and joining hands with India’s armed forces.
If Nasheed is reinstated, he must hold elections within 18 months of retaking an office and remove the police and military officials who have acted against the rule of law by going against the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Modi And Trump Must Respond To Call For Intervention
In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi had been warned against intervening in the Maldives, but the then prime minister had gone ahead, boosting India’s reliability as a partner.
The recent call for help from the Maldives gives an opportunity to Trump and PM Narendra Modi to show the same spine as Gandhi, and ensure that the Wahabbized army and police of the Maldives are stopped from blocking the democratic rights and freedoms of the Maldivian people.