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Malvides: India In Damage Control Mode – Analysis

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By S. Chandrasekharan

Having noticed that its “instant response” had the potential to contribute to instability in the region, India quickly sent its Foreign Secretary to Maldives to talk to the stake holders and to commit the parties for a national unity government and earlier Presidential elections. Some Indian analysts appear to have been roped in to say that India did what it had to.

Ranjan Mathai the Foreign Secretary, at the end of his visit on 16th gave the impression that he had been successful. Was he?

He said-

1. All political parties have “unanimously” agreed for a national unity government which would work towards holding an early presidential election before the scheduled one in 2013.

2. President Waheed was willing to hold early elections provided situation allowed for free and fair elections. ( emphasis ours)

3. MDP agrees on its part, committed itself to encouraging an atmosphere appropriate for the holding of elections. In this context he understood that the decision to hold a rally on the 17th was being reconsidered.

Maldives
Maldives

The MDP did hold its rally in Male with over 10,000 people on the 17th and declared that they will continue the agitation until firm dates for the election are announced.

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President Waheed was equally non committal over early presidential elections. He said “We will have to address some of the deep rifts that we have with the political situation in the country and then move towards free and fair elections. (Emphasis ours).

It looks that he will not be allowed to hold early elections. President Waheed has added a new element for holding early elections and that is- the economy will have to revived..

His political adviser Dr. Hassan Saeed has already confirmed this position that a proper environment for a free and fair election will have to be created.

Earlier and separately President Waheed has made three proposals and I suspect that these proposals could be used by vested elements to go back on the commitment for holding early elections.

It is also understood that he had made an informal commitment that he will have the elections in about six months’ time, but it is doubtful whether he would be able to or allowed to do.

The proposals are far reaching and cannot be completed even before the scheduled elections in October 2013. These include-

1. Independent legal and constitutional audit of Maldives since its inception.

2. Programme of Judicial Reform

3. Strengthen independence of freedom of the press and the media.

There is also the need for a constitutional amendment for which the cooperation of the MDP is required.

Surprisingly, the Islamists have made a tactical retreat and are not seen to be saying anything. But they are watching or probably they have been asked to be “quiet” for sometime.

The “23rd December Coalition” is seen to be preparing to hold another similar rally on or around 23rd of this month. Sheikh Imran Abdullah, President of the Adhaalath Party will be the Star once again. We will also see all parties vying with each other to celebrate the anniversary of the nation’s conversion to Islam- this time on the 26th of February.

There is no doubt that India has let down its friend- former President Nasheed. I dread to think of a similar response if this is to take place in Bangladesh where a potential explosive situation exists.

Nasheed is bitter. He had two observations on the Indian response.

1. If they (India) think that we did not perform, do they think this was a better option?

2. Speaking to the PTI he said “Unlike the PPM we are a group of people who strongly believe in India, its role and its functions in the Indian Ocean and the relations ship we want with India.”

He said that he was under great pressure from the Maldive National Defence Force establishment to sign a defence agreement with China and the papers were ready. It may be recalled that when Maldives was to enter into a Defence Agreement with India, there was strong opposition from the DRP of former President Gayoom. His PPM was fully involved in the current “operation topple.”

One should recall the statement Gayoom made in his first public rally in the first week of January. He called on the opposition parties to join hands for the noble cause to remove the current government which is a “threat to Islamic unity of the country and also to the independence and sovereignty of the nation.” Which country did he have in mind? I hope it was not India.

Nasheed has an immediate task to ensure that violence subsides in the MDP’s stronghold – Addu City. He has also to ensure that the civil disobedience movement he is planning does not result in violence which would give a perfect excuse to postpone the elections. Male and Addu make up half the population. He has to reach out to the other islanders in the country.

The opposition coalition that is seen to have united against Nasheed’s government is unlikely to stay intact. Gasim Ibrahim whose business interests have been protected may not stay active. The original DRP of Thasmeen Ali is already marginalised. There is President’s half brother Yameen who has ambitions of his own.

Nasheed has to be patient if he is to succeed.

SAAG

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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