The China Question, Part 2.1, Murky Maldivean Waters

Are the external affairs Gods listening to what I have to say? In a recent blog post, I had argued that the present turbulent state of affairs in the Maldives was a manifestation of the India-China “big-power” rivalry currently underway in the Indian Ocean. I had suggested that in order for India to maintain strategic and operational security, it was necessary to ensure that Chinese moves in India’s oceanic neighborhood must be contained and that Maldives was one piece of the puzzle. It would seem that India’s hand has been forced by the continuing drama in Male.

I find this line in “The Hindu” article of great interest:

Ironically, the Nasheed drama unfolded at a time when an Indian warship arrived in Maldives to conduct a five-day anti-piracy and maritime domain awareness exercises with the Maldivian Nation Defence Force (MNDF).

Whether or not this warship is in Maldivean waters on the invitation of the present government of President Mohd. Waheed is not of great relevance, for the simple fact that if India wishes to send warship(s) to the Maldives, there is little that the island nation can do but complain vocally.

In the coming days, as Indian tacticians finally get their act together and begin to cement Maldives’ return to the Indian fold, the following point should be kept in mind.

While there is a strong and reasonable argument to be made that the anti-Nasheed developments in the Maldives were engineered by external forces (read “China”), as outsiders we cannot determine that this was the end all and be all of the situation. In the name of restoring democracy to Maldives, India should be extremely wary of ending up in a situation where it is forced to prop up an unpopular dictatorial leader against a recalcitrant population. While the islands and ports of the Maldives might provide much needed shelter and resources for Indian warships, the overall strategic benefit of a pro-Indian tilt by the Maldives would be greatly lessened if the general population was to end up seeing India as the big bad wolf.

India is not the big bad wolf. India is the good woodsman come to rescue Red Riding Hood from the real big bad wolf. But if the woodsman is clumsy, the wolf might just end up convincing Ms. Hood that her savior is actually her enemy. In other words, all care must be taken so that the true feelings and democratic aspirations of the Maldivean people themselves are not betrayed in the process, even as India sets out to apply force – diplomatic or otherwise – in order to ensure the integrity of its own strategic perimeter in the Indian Ocean.

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