Maldives Crisis: The Maldives is a beautiful island country full of luxury resorts but it is also a country in the midst of a political crisis and has the potential to become a military battleground between China and India.
The Maldives crisis involves a standoff between the current Supreme Court and the Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen. Yameen has declared a state of emergency and ordered his military to blockade the justices in the Supreme Court, according to CNN.
How The Turmoil In The Maldives Started
The turmoil started when the nation’s Supreme Court ordered the release of nine political dissidents and the reinstatement of 12 legislators who were fired for leaving President Yameen’s political party. The reinstatement would have shifted the majority in the Maldives legislative assembly to President Yameen’s opposition.
On Feb. 5th, President Yameen responded by declaring the 15 day state of emergency. President Yameen used the state of emergency to arrest the Supreme Court chief and one other judge.
Maldives Crisis: Showdown Between Supreme Court and President
On the same day, President Yameen also sent troops to be dispatched to the Supreme Court. Security forces locked the Supreme Court from the outside, locking in the remaining judges without any food, according to the country’s former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood in his tweets.
Maldives CJ informed me that the security forces have blockaded and locked the Supreme Court building from outside and hence the justices are without any food now.
— Husnu Al Suood (@hsuood) February 5, 2018
President Yameen also arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who is President Yameen’s half-brother. Gayoom ruled the Maldives for 30 years until 2009 when the Maldives transitioned to a democracy and elected President Mohamed Nasheed.
Gayoom and Yameen had a falling out and Gayoom joined forces with President Nasheed. In 2015, President Nasheed was arrested on charges of terrorism which his supporters denounce. Nasheed was released a year later to seek medical treatment abroad and took asylum in Britain.
Nasheed has spoken out against Yameen’s actions on Twitter.
Under the guise of an emergency, Pres Yameen has gone after the opposition, judiciary, parliament, and now the media. @Raajje_tv stops broadcast following multiple threats, & intimidation from the security services. Press freedom must be guaranteed for all.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 8, 2018
How Is India Playing The Maldives Crisis?
Both Gayoom and Nasheed have asked India to intervene and force Yameen to free the judges and political prisoners. India has intervened in the Maldives before, back in the 1980s when they helped quell a coup that sought to oust Gayoom.
On behalf of Maldivian people we humbly request:
1. India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges & pol. detainees inc. Prez. Gayoom. We request a physical presence.
2. The US to stop all financial transactions of Maldives regime leaders going through US banks.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 6, 2018
So far India has only called on the Maldives to abide with the Supreme Court’s ruling. India did refuse a special envoy from President Yameen, thus, expressing their disapproval of Yameen’s actions.
The China Factor
Despite being the smallest Asian state, the Maldives’ geographical position in the Indian Ocean makes this tiny country important.
China contributes tremendously to the Maldives economy. In 2017, 300,000 Chinese tourists vacationed in the Maldives, and Beijing has invested heavily in the island’s infrastructure projects.
Beijing’s investment in the infrastructure of the Maldives has lead the Maldives to be indebted to China and it’s a debt which Former President Nasheed claims the Maldives can not pay. Nasheed has accused China of an aggressive “land grab.”
The Maldives sits as a tiny but beautiful island which both India and China have struggled for influence over. The current crisis begs the question of whether both countries would send troops to the Maldives.
According to The Hindu, “China’s state-run tabloid Global Times on Monday warned that Beijing will retaliate if New Delhi unilaterally decides to send troops to crisis-hit Maldives.”
India rarely intervenes in foreign countries but the Maldives sits in their backyard and the Maldives crisis appears to be a litmus test for India and their stronghold on power in the region.