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India played neutral as Nasheed's men sought military intervention

The smooth transition of power to Mohammed Waheed Hassan in the Maldives comes as a big relief to India, as New Delhi is not ready to repeat the 1988 "Operation Cactus"

The smooth transition of power to Mohammed Waheed Hassan in the Maldives comes as a big relief to India, as New Delhi is not ready to repeat the 1988 "Operation Cactus"  

Fearing for the personal liberty of the deposed Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed, close aides said some of his Ministers had sought Indian military assistance when the “coup” was under way on Tuesday but none came.

“Some Cabinet Ministers told us that India had gunboats in the vicinity and would intervene,” Mr. Nasheed's aides told The Hindu from an undisclosed location as they feared arrest.

But highly placed sources here claimed that India played a neutral role in the squabble. “We made it clear to all those who came to us that this was for the Maldivians to sort out among themselves,” they said.

In fact, the then Foreign Minister sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male while violence was raging there but was talked out of it and taken away by his party people, revealed the sources.

Other Indian officials said there was no “serious proposal” from the Maldivian government though some Ministers did tell the Indian High Commissioner that “things were hotting up” and some sort of help might be required.

New Delhi is very clear that it would have found itself in the soup and even opposition parties would have turned against it had Indian commandos thrust themselves in what was a largely political dispute among the Maldivians themselves.

“This is certainly not 1988,” the sources said, in reference to “Operation Cactus” launched by the Indian army and navy after businessmen Lutfee hired Tamil mercenaries from Sri Lanka to depose the then President, Abdul Gayoom. “There was some violence which has stopped and they are sorting it out by themselves. Imagine what the reaction would have been had the Indian military intervened in these circumstances.”

Asked whether Mr. Gayoom's men displaying liquor bottles suggested that a case was being made to put Mr. Nasheed in jail, officials here said the basic aim of the Maldives' near neighbours would be to ensure that the new government took complete responsibility of the law and order situation. Meaning, no harm should come to Mr. Nasheed or any member of his government.

“Such demands are made in such a situation but we have been given to understand that the parties have agreed not to try or prosecute Nasheed or his supporters,” the sources said adding, “at no stage will we be brokering for one side or the other.”

But Mr. Nasheed's aides spoke of uncertainty and fear after his advisor Zaki was badly beaten up along with two parliamentarians of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). One MP, they said, was still missing. Mr. Zaki is a familiar figure to those who have known Mr. Nasheed when he was building up international acceptability for himself before challenging Mr. Gayoom for President through the ballot.

‘Resignation at gunpoint'

Giving an eyewitness account of how Mr. Nasheed was forced to quit, the aides said a few minutes to noon on Tuesday, they saw a fleet of unmarked military cars arrive at the Presidential House. Mr. Nasheed got out surrounded by military men, some of them armed. He had a quick meeting with Ministers and was then “forced to resign with a gun pointed to his head.” He was escorted out by the military and in an hour, Vice-President Waheed, who had been making “strange statements” since midnight, became President.

The aides feared that Mr. Gayoom's men, including half-brother Abdulla Yameen and the former security officer, Umar Naseer, were plotting to imprison Mr. Nasheed and even bar him from contesting the next elections after some of them claimed to have found empty liquor bottles in the Presidential House.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 10:18:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-played-neutral-as-nasheeds-men-sought-military-intervention/article2872807.ece

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