Why Protect the US Empire in Maldives?

B Arjun

MODI’S China policy is now taking a U-turn. After few days of vain naval-muscle-flexing and threatening to intervene in Maldives, ostensibly to save democracy, New Delhi is back to talking peace with Beijing. Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale has recently visited Beijing. In addition, the government has asked the Tibetan government-in-exile to cancel its two main ‘Thank You India’ events in New Delhi to mark 60 years in exile of the Dalai Lama. It widely reported in the press that the foreign secretary has advised that all “ministries/departments of government of India as well as state governments not to accept any invitation or to participate in the proposed commemorative events”. The appearance of such sensitive intra-government communication in the press is clearly to send feelers to Beijing that India is willing to address the Chinese concerns. This backtracking on Tibetan front is indeed a surprise move. The same government had audaciously invited the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay to the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, in 2014. The reasons for such bold course corrections by New Delhi remain unclear.

Last month in response to Modi government rhetoric on Maldivian problem, the Chinese sent their naval ships to the Indian Ocean to signal that it considered any foreign involvement in the Maldives inimical to its interests and investments in the archipelago. According to latest New York times report,  after Doklam, Maldives was about to become a tinder box of regional rivalries and geopolitical games, however better sense prevailed and the two governments decided to not allow the matters to escalate.   

At one point, the crisis assumed such proportions that President Trump, commander-in-chief of the most lethal military industrial complex in the world, called the Indian prime minster about the political crisis in Maldives where  a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners led to a state of emergency. Paradoxically, Trump and Modi, the enemies of liberalism, discussed restoration of democracy in the Muslim-dominated tiny island nation. The conservative twins who are blatantly undermining democratic institutions and openly promoting violence by white supremacists and Hindu chauvinists in their respective countries are claiming to save the people of Maldives.

It is well known that Trump administration's combative media tactics has emasculated every democratic institution. According to an American watchdog group Freedom House, "The core institutions of American democracy are being battered by an administration that has treated the country's traditional checks and balances with disdain." In New Delhi, recently the four senior Supreme Court judges came out and told the media that “democracy will not survive” in India if the institution of judiciary is not preserved. With democracy under severe stress in Washington and New Delhi, it is naïve to believe that assault on democracy in Maldives is hurting the so-called neo-liberal elite in Washington and New Delhi. That the two intended to move into Male to protect democracy is indeed a laughable proposition.

Ironically, the American concerns about democracy and constitutionalism in Maldives, since early 2000, has plunged the tranquil tourist spot into chaos. The direct involvement of USAID and George Soros’s Open Society Institute (OSI) in Maldives began in 2005. The thirty–year old rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom came under scrutiny and he was declared a human rights violator by American sponsored NGOs. The West saw this as an opportune moment to introduce their “own guy” Mohamed Nasheed, into the Maldivian political landscape. Nasheed had lived in exile in Britain for several years – with the support of the British government. In 1997, “Amnesty International bestowed him with the pro-Western ‘honour’ of being a ‘prisoner of conscience’. In 2008, Nasheed won the elections against Gayoom in the second round with support and interventions by Saudi backed political outfits. From then on, the West used all the propaganda tools in its kit to create Maldives as a proof of environmental degradation and Nasheed as the ultimate environment-warrior out to save Maldives and planet earth. Nasheed became a celebrity at the Copenhagen summit in December 2009. The video of Nasheed and his eleven political colleagues, wearing scuba gear, holding the cabinet meet twenty feet under the surface of the Indian Ocean was popularised. The strategy was designed by Nasheed’s communications advisor Paul Roberts the owner of a New York based communication and advocacy firm, Roberts+Rich. Paul served as communications advisor to President Mohamed Nasheed for six years.  

According to an investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, “Nasheed was selected by Time magazine at the top of their ‘Leaders and Visionaries’ list of ‘Heroes of the Environment.’ The United Nations awarded Nasheed its ‘Champions of the Earth’ award. Foreign Policy magazine, co-founded by the late Samuel Huntington, a chief ideologist for the neo-conservative pabulum of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ between the West and Islam, named Nasheed as one of its top global thinkers.”

One of the most controversial decisions of Nasheed’s government that fragmented the ruling coalition in 2010 was the direct involvement of Israel into Maldivian affairs. Nasheed invited Israeli doctors, and security force personnel to Maldives. In October 2011, Nasheed government abstained from voting for Palestine’s full admission to the UNESCO. In the beginning of 2012, Nasheed arrested the chief justice of Maldivian criminal court for passing a verdict against his cabinet ministers. This arrest led to violence. Nasheed resigned in February 2012 installing his deputy as the prime minister. By 2012, the CIA sponsored themed revolution plunged the Maldivian atoll, into chaos. By 2013 Nasheed was behind bars on terrorism charges and Abdulla Yameen (former president Gayoom’s half-brother) became the prime minister. After this, Maldives remained in turmoil due to assassination attempts on Yameen.

The so-called Western humanitarian and democratic interventions have caused unnecessary problems in all the countries that they have invaded. The impact of the themed revolution in Maldives has been similar to the one observed in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. Such Western interventions have only resulted in further polarisation of the political situation and disturbing the peace of 4, 00,000 people living in Maldives.

There are numerous examples of America propping up and preserving dictatorships across the world to suit its parochial geopolitical interests. Maldives is the latest American victim. Trump-Modi duo is keen on Maldives because they see China winning hearts and minds in Male with their massive investments. It is on its way to establish to use Male as a key strategic outpost in the Indian Ocean. Maldives has become an increasingly important part of China’s global trade and the "Belt and Road" initiative.

According to estimates “Beijing has assumed more than 70 per cent of the island nation’s debt and that nearly a quarter of the country’s current budget is used to cover interest payments.” China and Maldives recently signed a free trade agreement (FTA). The Chinese have invested $1 billion in the tiny island nation. Its companies are developing Hulhule Island and the “Friendship” bridge connecting it to Male. The Chinese are also designing new tourism prospects with reclamation projects. The Chinese forays into Maldives has polarised the political landscape. The opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by Nasheed is pro-India and the West. And the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) led by Prime Minister Yameen is seen as pro-China because, since assuming power in end 2013, China-Maldives relations have soared to attain greater heights. The Chinese success lies in the fact that they are quick to turn plans into reality. The question is why should Maldives be punished for seeking legitimate investments to fulfil its developmental goals?  Why should Maldives end up serving as a laboratory setting for managing the rise of China in the Indian Ocean by US-India combine? Why is India hell-bent on saving the American empire, which over the past few decades has brought only misery to the world?

There is no gain saying the fact that Beijing is moving at a break speed to establish maritime linkages across the Indian Ocean.  It is winning over small nations across South Asia, luring them with dream developmental projects, which they had not imagined for decades. Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Bhutan is under the spell of Chinese investment promises. With Hambantota, Gwadar and Djibouti already in the Chinese pocket, India is perturbed about growing Chinese clout in the region that it perceives to be in its sphere of influence. The question that we must ask is, are we spending our scarce resources to protect American empire? If we can co-exist with Western presence in the IOR then what is our problem in allowing China the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean?



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