Riding On China, Maldives Challenges India
Hardnews|March 2018

India’s failure to counter China’s enlargement in South Asia does not bode well for its neighbourhood policy

Sanjay Kapoor

On March 16-17 this year, the tiny capital of Male saw one of the biggest protests in recent years against Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom for imposing internal emergency and curtailing the fundamental rights of its citizens. The protesters, who were in thousands, were subjected to pepper spray and tear gas. More than 141 were arrested.

Though the Male government has announced that it has removed internal emergency in the country, the democracy activists based out of Male and Colombo claim that state repression has increased manifold. The top leaders were imprisoned long back, now the government has ‘detained’ hundreds of lower level party workers. What has contributed to the helplessness of those who oppose President Yameen is that India has not done much after giving an impression that it did not like what was happening in the Maldives when it issued statements against the imposition of internal emergency or demanded the implementation of the Supreme Court order that asked for the release of political prisoners.

Expectations that India will intervene stemmed from the fact that it is Maldives’s closest big neighbour and it has interwoven itself with its society. Also, as a diplomat from a western country told Hardnews, “It (The Maldives) is in India’s backyard and so it is India’s responsibility to fix it. The Maldives is not a priority for us.” The Maldivians who had slowly got used to their fledgeling democracy expected India to protect it. That does not seem to be happening.

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