India’s ruling party leader Yashwant Sinha on Sunday declared that the political turmoil of the Maldives poses a threat to India and that the regional power has the option of sending military troops to the archipelago.
In a press conference at his residence, Sinha proclaimed that the Maldives’ crisis threatens India’s national security, and urged the Indian government as “the best judge” of the situation to act as soon as possible. He said that sending the Indian army to the Maldives is an option, but that the government should make its decision carefully.
The former external affairs minister’s remarks come in the wake of a tweet by the Maldives’ former President Mohamed Nasheed, in which he had requested the Indian government to send an envoy, with military backing, to solve the ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives.
Sinha said that the main concern was the loss of time. Urging his government to act, he stated that India need not ask any other country before it does so, and that India’s decision would be respected by the world.
He also raised concerns over the number of Maldivian insurgents fighting in foreign civil wars.
“Highest numbers of people (on per capita basis) from Maldives have joined the ISIS. These people will return to our nearest neighbour (Maldives) when ISIS is wiped out, posing threat to us,” he claimed.
It is of note that prior to Sinha’s press conference, Nasheed had claimed in an interview to The Times of India newspaper that Maldivian insurgents in foreign conflicts “have been coming back since ISIS got flushed out in Iraq and Syria” and that “they have embedded themselves in strategic places within our military, police, customs and immigration.”
However, the Maldivian police and military have both denied the allegation as a false and baseless rumour, made to suit Nasheed’s own agenda and to create misconceptions and mistrust of the security forces.
Sinha further expressed worries over China’s growing presence in the island nation. He claimed that there were reports of China having “taken over” 17 – 18 islands of the Maldives.
"That Chinese should come and right under our nose, in our backyard, play these games, India should not remain a mute spectator," he was cited as saying in The Times of India.
Despite Sinha’s claim, the Maldives has not given any islands to China. The Maldivian government had also earlier refuted Nasheed’s accusations of certain islands being given to the Asian superpower.
Political tensions peaked in the Maldives when the Supreme Court on February 1 issued a shock ruling to release prominent political leaders. The government had refused to comply, claiming that the unprecedented verdict raised suspicions of bribery involving the top court judges. While this prompted harsh criticism from the opposition and international bodies, President Abdulla Yameen had declared a state of emergency on February 5, after which he had had the chief justice and a judge of the top court, along with the judicial administrator and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, arrested under accusations of giving and accepting bribes and attempting to stage a coup. After the arrests, the remaining three judges of the Supreme Court had revoked the order to free the politicians.