Saturday 10 February 2018

Modi must restore democracy in the Maldives (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
India-US joint intervention in the Maldivian crisis would enhance the credibility of the two militaries as the lead force for stability and justice in the entire Indo-Pacific.
From the start of his misrule, it was obvious that Maldivian head of state Abdulla Yameen cared not a whit for democracy. Using the power of the executive, he managed through complicit officials to cobble together a majority in Parliament through expelling several members.
Subsequently, Yameen has steadily and stealthily been seeking to promote radicals in their effort to Wahhabize the Maldives, the way President R.T. Erdogan is doing in the Turkey by overturning the moderate ethos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, slowly replacing it with a system infused with Wahhabi ideology dressed up in camouflage. Mohamed Nasheed, who was removed from office as President of the Maldives by Yameen and a group of Wahhabi camp followers in the police and military, is opposed to religious extremism, and this is the “crime”
for which he was punished with prison and exile. Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed of the Supreme Court showed unusual spine in declaring the obvious, that the disqualification of several anti-Yameen legislators was mala fide. Instead of accepting the Rule of Law, Yameen has used the Law of the Jungle to imprison CJM Saeed. Shamefully for the institution, his terrified brother justices have overturned his judgement, “because President Yameen asked for it”. The “law” in the Maldives is clearly what Wahabbist Abdulla Yameen wants it to be. Even former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been jailed. Given the deep pockets of the Wahhabi International, it is no surprise that the radicalising military and police forces on the Indian Ocean nation are backing the Wahhabist Yameen, rather than the Rule of Law as represented by the verdict of the Chief Justice of the Maldivian Supreme Court.
It is clear that the individual legally entitled to remain the President of the Maldives is Nasheed, rather than the usurper Yameen. That being so, the call by Actual President Nasheed for India to assist in removing Usurper President Yameen from power is legal and within the full ambit of international law read in a democratic manner. China, of course, has called for “restraint”, not on the part of Yameen, but on the part of those powers alarmed at the destruction of democracy in the Maldives. Were India to accept Beijing’s advice and not act, it would be clear to all the countries of the Indo-Pacific that Modi-led India’s backing for full sea and air access and sovereignty of all the powers within the Indo-Pacific is worth tuppence. Just as in 1988, there needs to be kinetic assistance given to those in the Maldives who are battling to retrieve the moderation and democracy that the island nation was for so long known. If police and military units on the island remain captive to the Wahhabi International and oppose India’s “Responsibility to Protect” intervention, they need to be dealt with ruthlessly. Some NATO member states may look askance at a Third World country doing what they believe is the exclusive prerogative of the “Herrenvolk” (i.e. themselves). President Donald J. Trump is however likely to prevail over the Clinton holdovers within the US bureaucracy and back democracy in Male by ensuring that US forces in the Indian Ocean join hands with their Indian counterparts  in Operation “Restore Democracy” in the Maldives. The exigencies of geopolitics has made both India and the US military allies, and joint intervention in the Maldivian crisis
on the basis of the request for such action by Actual President Nasheed would be a useful spur to greater cooperation between the two militaries in the future. Such an operation would enhance the credibility of the two militaries as the lead force for stability and justice in the entire Indo-Pacific. Once the Usurper President gets replaced in the seat of power by the Actual President, the latter could hold elections within 18 months, thereby giving the people of the Maldives an opportunity to vote for either Wahhabism or the moderate ethos of genuine Islam, vote for either the freedoms of a moderate democracy or the straitjacket of a Wahabbi autocracy. On retaking office, President Nasheed must remove the police and military officials, who have subverted the Rule of Law by disobeying the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and send them to exile rather than to prison. As for China, the country’s Communist Party is nothing if not pragmatic, and a return of the ousted leader is certain to be followed by overtures to him from Beijing.
The Indo-Pacific has by now far outstripped the Atlantic Ocean as the primary pivot of the 21st century, despite efforts by the East Coast establishment in the US together with some NATO member states to pretend the opposite, that the Atlantic Ocean is still as dominant in global commerce and diplomacy as was the case in the half-century after 1945. To fulfil its natural role as the lead actor in the coalition ensuring security and access within the eastern side of the Indo-Pacific the way the US still is in the western reaches, there needs to be effective action besides verbal protestations of intent and capability. The Lutyens Zone ensured that India took a pass in the global war on ISIS from 2014 to the present by refusing to kinetically join either of the coalitions battling the terror group, that led by the US or the other led by Russia and Iran. Ideally, India should have joined both the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus forces (in Syria) and the
Washington-Baghdad partnership (in Iraq), thereby preserving strategic independence from what may be called “New Cold War” considerations.
This New Cold War is yet another consequence of Atlanticist logic, and has the US and some of its allies facing off against Russia and China in multiple theatres. In 1988, the Lutyens Zone warned Rajiv Gandhi against intervention in the Maldives, but the then Prime Minister went ahead, thereby boosting India’s reliability as a partner. Now that another call for intervention from the elected authority of the Maldives has come, Narendra Modi needs to show the same resolve as Rajiv Gandhi did, by ensuring that Yameen-led Wahhabis are stopped from blocking the democratic rights and freedoms of the Maldivian people, more than 95% of whom share with 98% of their Muslim counterparts in India the divine qualities of modernity and moderation. Should the Modi government fail this test of will, none in the Indo-Pacific will take seriously India’s boast of being an effective and reliable partner.

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