India is keeping a close watch on developments in the Maldives, our island neighbour and Indian army have been told to remain on standby to ensure the deployment at short notice. But, for those who don’t know about the history of Maldives-India’s relations, if India asserts military intervention in the Maldives, this won’t be for the first time.
India in 1988 had sent military to recapture Maldives’ capital Male when a Maldivian political group led by Abdullah Luthufi had attempted to overthrow the government with a coup orchestrated with the help of the armed mercenaries of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a Sri Lankan Tamil secessionist organisation.
The intervention by Indian armed forces – codenamed ‘Operation Cactus’ – trounced the attempted coup.
Maldives President Abdullah Gayoom with PM Rajiv Gandhi, GOI
But now times have changed and India’s military intervention can draw bigger implications. The regime of President Abdulla Yameen who is at the centre of the controversy has already sent to Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.
But before we get further and know more about “Operation Cactus”, let’s know about the present crisis what led to this quagmire and how?
The current crisis has erupted after Supreme Court of Maldives ordered last week that regime of President Abdullah Yameen should release the nine opposition leaders including former president Mohammed Nasheed who are in exile in Colombo.
In its order, the court said that the prisoners’ ‘guilty’ verdicts had been “influenced” by the government. The ruling might allow Nasheed who was the first democratically elected president to challenge President Yameen to seek re-election later this year. Because as per the apex court’s order the reinstatement of 12 MPs, who had been ousted for switching allegiance to the opposition would put the government of Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives in minority and the country would head for elections.
Therefore on Monday, Yameen declared a state of emergency and got the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Abdullah Saeed and another judge Hameed arrested.The remaining three judges of the Supreme Court revoked the release order, “in light of the concerns raised by the President”.
Yameen came to power in 2013 in an election which was allegedly rigged. Yameen right from the word go was accused of eroding democracy and therefore he cracked down upon opposition leaders.
Mohamed Nasheed, who became the country’s first democratically elected President in 2009 was imprisoned on terror charges in 2015. Nasheed, however, was allowed to seek medical treatment abroad. He was granted asylum in Britain. Nasheed who had good relations with India was to challenge Yameen for scheduled to take place this year. But now the Supreme Court ruling was likely to prepone the election. Nasheed is believed to be Sri Lanka.
30 years ago, in 1988, a Maldivian group led by Abdullah Luthufi attempted to overthrow the government in Maldives. The capital Male was occupied by LTTE mercenaries and the then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was able to escape capture, requested military intervention from several countries, including India.
The then PM Gandhi responded to Maldives’ call and ordered paratroopers and naval warships to the island nation. The Operation Cactus was unleashed in the night of 3 November 1988 and the paratroopers immediately secured the airfield, crossed over to Male using commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom.
The soldiers soon restored control over the capital Male.
Some mercenaries fled towards Sri Lanka in a hijacked freighter while many were arrested by Indian army and handed over to Maldives government.
A total of nineteen people died in the whole mission which included two hostages killed by mercenaries. The Indian ships intercepted the hijacked freighter off the Sri Lankan coast and captured the mercenaries.