Exiled former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday urged India to "act swiftly" to help in resolving the ongoing political crisis in the island nation that escalated after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency and troops arrested the top judge of the country.
Nasheed tweeted, "On behalf of Maldivian people we humbly request:
1. India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges & pol. detainees inc. Prez. Gayoom. We request a physical presence.
2. The US to stop all financial transactions of Maldives regime leaders going through US banks."
Also, the United States of America today urged the Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching, tweeted US National Security Council.
On the other hand, India is closely watching the developments in the island nation and has advised people to defer all non-essential travel to Male and other atolls until further notice. Now, should New Delhi watch from the sidelines or should it interfere to restore democracy in the island nation?
The growing economic and strategic proximity between Maldives and China show that India should be pro-active in its approach.
Sudha Ramachandran writes in The Diplomat that India's influence over the Maldives began fraying after former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was perceived as India-friendly, was forced to resign in February 2012. An agreement signed by India's GMR Infrastructure under Nasheed's tenure for upgrading Male airport was abruptly terminated by his successor in November 2012. The contract was subsequently awarded to a state-owned Chinese company.
Not only economic deals, Maldives permitted three Chinese warships to dock in Male in August 2017. Sudha Ramachandran further writes that India's security analysts warn that Maldives too can be expected to slip into a Chinese debt trap, leaving it vulnerable to Beijing's demands and pressure. New Delhi is apprehensive that such pressure will culminate in China acquiring a naval presence in Maldives.
The same year tensions apparently peaked after a pro-government newspaper of Maldives described PM Narendra Modi as anti-Muslim and India as an 'enemy nation'. However, President Abdulla Yameen denied that the editorial reflected his government's position in any way and called India the country's "closest friend" and ally.
In an official statement, though, Yameen reiterated that his administration would never entertain negative sentiments towards India, highlighting that Indian assistance formed an "invaluable contribution to the Maldives" - further adding that the government was currently working towards a free trade agreement between the Maldives and India'.
Though Maldives claims to have a "special relationship" with India, it's interest are tilting towards China. In such circumstances, time is ripe for India to uphold democratic liberalism in Maldives.