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Indian diplomacy faces tropical summer in Male

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 8, 2018

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, J. J. Robinson, the well-known journalist and author of Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy, reflected as follows:

  • Ultimately the ongoing telenovela of Maldivian political intrigue is a distraction from the real crisis – the illegitimacy of the judiciary. Handpicked by Gayoom during his rule and illegally given life tenure under the new constitution in 2010, the judges have been at the centre of most of the Maldives’ recent ills; at least 50% of the 200-odd judges and magistrates have less than seventh-grade education, while a quarter had actual criminal records, including convictions for sexual misconduct, embezzlement, violence and disruption of public harmony.
  • Resoundingly discredited by groups such as the International Committee of Jurists and the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the institution demands wholesale reform, and likely the presence of foreign judges on the bench. However excited the opposition at their recent good fortune, current events are far from a triumph of judicial independence.

The Maldives President Abdulla Yameen hit the nail on the head when he disclosed on Tuesday that the Chief Justice of Supreme Court Abdulla Saeed was bribed to give such a ruling on February 1, by ordering the release of a clutch of politicians viscerally opposed to the regime and reinstating 12 erstwhile lawmakers (which would have made the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives forfeit majority support in the parliament.) Yameen didn’t say who bribed Saeed but he referred to a plot to overthrow him and vowed to get to the bottom of it.

One can only hope that Yameen doesn’t mention India in a fit of rancor. He has an alibi if he wants to put India on the mat, since Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed  (who is in police custody) had paid an extended official visit to New Delhi in late October, soon after the visit by former president Mohamed Nasheed to India in end-August. By the way, while in Delhi, Nasheed addressed a panel at Brookings India to present his case for regime change in Maldives, openly soliciting Indian support. Like icing on the cake, subsequently, the US ambassador in Colombo Arun Kashyap (who is accredited to Male) also dropped by for consultations over the situation in Maldives with the then Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.

Nasheed himself is based in Colombo. But why would Sri Lankan government encourage Nasheed to overthrow Yameen? To my mind, all this looks like a replay of the botched-up attempt by the CIA to eliminate Turkish President Recep Erdogan in July 2015. The US state department statement on Tuesday, here, betrays a sense of fury and despair that Yameen survived.

India should distance itself from the tragic happenings in Maldives. Importantly, we should nip in the bud any misperceptions arising of being party even remotely to an American plot to overthrow the leadership of a friendly neighboring country. Therefore, we should reach out to Yameen quickly, decisively and demonstrably. After all, he had sent his foreign minister as special envoy to Delhi only recently (soon after Nasheed, Saeed and Kashyap’s visit) in an extraordinary diplomatic gesture to convey to PM Modi that ‘India first’ has been, still is and will forever be the cornerstone of Male’s foreign policy priorities. See the reports on the special envoy’s talks with the Indian leadership on January 11 in New Delhi — here, here and here.)

A hot summer lies ahead for Indian diplomacy since elections are due in the Maldives and Yameen will pull out all the stops to consolidate his position. Delhi’s approach should be ditto what the UPA government took when Sheikh Hasina got re-elected as prime minister in January 2014 in Bangladesh – the boycott of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the abysmally low voter turnout (22%) notwithstanding. We had rejected Washington’s entreaties to join its campaign to arm-twist Hasina and get a ‘pro-American’ leadership installed in Dhaka.

But the heart of the matter is that times have changed during the past three years. The Indian establishment seemed to think that what was good for Uncle Sam was ditto what India should work for and that all that crap about ‘strategic autonomy’ had become archaic. Basically, bureaucrats had a field day setting their own agenda in the absence of assertive political leadership.

We should never have entertained Kashyap and Brookings India (franchise of a notorious American think tank of Cold War vintage with links to the US intelligence) should never have sponsored activities directed against India’s friendly neighbors. We do not realize that India’s small neighbors take us very seriously and read meanings and motives into our behavior.

February 8, 2018 - Posted by | Aletho News | , , , ,

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