Maldives Political Crisis

  • Maldives became a multiparty democracy 10 years ago after decades of autocratic rule by the current president’s half-brother, strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
  • Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, was toppled in 2012. He was barred from contesting elections after his 2015 terrorism conviction, which was internationally criticised as politically motivated.
  • He has been in exile since 2016, when he left on prison leave for medical treatment. He is currently in Colombo, meeting Maldivian dissidents based in Sri Lanka.
  • But the nation lost much of its democratic gains after Yameen was elected in 2013. He has maintained a tight grip on power, controlling institutions such as the judiciary and the police. Yameen had been set to run for re-election this year virtually unopposed, with all of his opponents either jailed or exiled.
What is Maldives SC stand?
  • Supreme Court cancelled Nasheed’s imprisonment term and that of eight other political leaders, reinstated 12 parliamentarians who had been disqualified, and ordered Mr. Yameen to allow the Maldivian parliament, or Majlis, to convene.
  • Yameen has thus far failed to comply with any of these orders, despite an official statement about his government’s “commitment to uphold and abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court”.
  • The most egregious failure is the government’s refusal to cancel the imprisonment of the nine leaders, amongst whom is Mr. Yameen’s former vice president and his former defence minister, members of parliament and leaders of major opposition parties, apart from Mr. Nasheed himself.
Status after SC Judgement
  • Government sent in the army to stop lawmakers from entering the premises, besides arresting two parliamentarians at the airport.
  • Several officials, including two police chiefs and the prison chief have resigned or been sacked, reportedly for seeking to implement the Supreme Court’s orders.
  • The Attorney General has now announced that only the Constitution matters, not “illegal orders” from the court. In short, the Maldives is in the midst of a constitutional crisis.
How have countries reacted?
  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the Maldivian government to respect the Supreme Court’s order
  • India said it was imperative for “all organs” of the Maldivian government to abide by the order “in the spirit of democracy”.
  • The US welcomed the decision by the Maldives’ Supreme Court to order the release of political prisoners and to reinstate elected members of parliament
India losing its Sheen?
  • But currently, Delhi’s leverage in the Maldives is less than it has ever been.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to cancel his visit to Male three years ago, has singled Maldives out as the only country in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Region that he hasn’t visited.
  • Maldives has pulled out of the Commonwealth, and there is little semblance of a SAARC process at present, India’s influence in Male is further limited.
  • India already has lost too much for its hard stance in beginning of this political crisis.
  • China has taken advantage of India’s hard instance and opposition of new government
  • After which, India has soften its instance against current government ignoring its undemocratic nature
  • So, India faces a dilemma of choosing between
    • its strategic interest of supporting undemocratic current government or
    • to adhere to its principle of support to democracy
Why India should not support new front (Nasheed)?
  • It would be against the principle of Panchasheel of non-interference 
  • It will worsen our relations with the present government of Maldives and will most certainly push them towards China
Why India should support new front or find out a solution to Maldivian crisis?
  • Stable government in Maldives is desirable for India’s neighbourhood diplomacy.
  • Being a strong supporter and example of democratic institution, it is the moral duty of India to guide Maldives to right democratic path 
  • Relations with the former democratic government was better with respect to the present regime which is tilting towards China.
  • India is strongly pursuing for a global role (UNSC seat, NSG/MTCR membership etc.). So, India should show its prowess by resolving this dispute in its neighbourhood.
  • ISIS is making inroads in Maldives which would pose real threat to India’s strategic interest

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