Maldives crisis: Can India undertake another ‘Operation Cactus?’
India says it is closely watching the crisis in Maldives. Going by the events of today when even the Chief Justice was arrested, it appears as though the situation is spiralling out of control.
India would keep a close watch due to the geograpical proximity and also to ensure stability in the Indian Ocean. Maldives is just 700 kilometres away from the Lakshadweep island chain and 1,200 kilometres away from the Indian mainland. The stability factor on the Indian Ocean is also a key worry for India.
The big question is will India intervene. The Supreme Court in Maldives had sought India's help. Can India carry out another Operation Cactus in Maldives as was done in 1998.
OneIndia speaks with Animesh Roul, Executive Director of Research at the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict on the crisis and whether India would intervene in the same.
Roul says, the political situation in Maldives deteriorated over the past week when the top court there ordered a re-trial of these cases and issued directions to free all the political prisoners and to restore their privileges.
'Now the country is witnessing a state of Emergency and former President and Supreme Court Judge were arrested, India should act fast for its citizens including tourists and expatriates (health care professionals and educators) stranded in that volatile quagmire.'
Having said that, India is not in a position to carry out an Operation Cactus (Nov. 1988) type intervention as those times were different. Now bigger players are involved in Maldives affairs (read China) and India should be more cautious in its approach. We are not expecting to make another Nepal in Maldives, as far as our neighbourhood diplomatic ties are concern.
Smarter China has already issued travel advisory, of course India would follow suit now. Beyond wait and watch policy, India should utilise its good office in Male and influence President Yameen to find middle path while keeping the option of a stronger response open to break the stalemate, Roul also says.
What is Operation Cactus?
The 1988 Maldives coup d'état was the attempt by a group of Maldivians led by Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organisation from Sri Lanka, the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), to overthrow the government in the island republic of Maldives.
The coup d'état failed due to the intervention of the Indian Army, whose military operations efforts were code-named Operation Cactus by the Indian Armed Forces.
The operation started on the night of 3 November 1988, when Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force airlifted the elements of the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brig Farukh Bulsara, the 6th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and, the 17th Parachute Field Regiment from Agra Air Force Station and flew them non-stop over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi) to land them over the Malé International Airport on Hulhule Island. The Indian Army paratroopers arrived on Hulhule in nine hours after the appeal from President Gayoom.
The Indian paratroopers immediately secured the airfield, crossed over to Male using commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom. The paratroopers restored control of the capital to President Gayoom's government within hours.
Some of the mercenaries fled toward Sri Lanka in a hijacked freighter. Those unable to reach the ship in time were quickly rounded up and handed over to the Maldives government. Nineteen people reportedly died in the fighting, most of them mercenaries. The dead included two hostages killed by the mercenaries. The Indian Navy frigates Godavari and Betwa intercepted the freighter off the Sri Lankan coast, and captured the mercenaries. Swift operation by the military and precise intelligence information successfully quelled the attempted coup d'état in the island nation.