Democracy in Maldives good
news for India, say experts
Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) The first democratic government in the
Maldives in three decades has brought much cheer to the Indian
establishment as it will make it easier for New Delhi to deal
with a democratic regime instead of a one-man dictatorship
in the neighbourhood, experts said Thursday.
liberates India from a lot of past embarrassment of supporting
a non-democratic regime," Major General (retired) Ashok
Mehta, an expert who has closely followed developments in
the Maldives, told IANS a day after President Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom was defeated by Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldives' first
should be happy that one more country in the region has become
a democracy," Mehta said.
K. Subrahmanyam, an eminent strategic expert: "It's definitely
good news for India to have a Muslim country in the neighbourhood
which is a democracy."
that India has made democracy a prerequisite for good relations
with its neighbours, especially when it's a strategically
important country, 800 km away from India's southern tip and
one where China is trying to make inroads.
fact, India enjoyed excellent bilateral relations with the
Maldives for the three decades when Gayoom ruled that country
- a period that saw the dramatic transformation of the idyllic
island nation into a luxury holiday destination, bringing
prosperity on one hand but also bringing curbs on political
liberties in its wake.
an assertion of its security interests in the Maldives, the
then Rajiv Gandhi government sent troops to beat off Sri Lankan
mercenaries who tried to oust Gayoom in a failed coup in 1988.
India's engagement with the Maldives in the Gayoom era was
driven purely by pragmatism and a sense of responsibility
for the country. With nearly 1,200 islands, populated by 370,000
people, it is the smallest country in the South Asian Association
for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
beginning of the "new era of democracy," as Indian
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his congratulatory message
Wednesday night to President-elect Nasheed, therefore, promises
to energise traditional ties and will build upon huge reserves
of goodwill for India in that country.
the new mood of optimism about the new government in Male,
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India was
"confident" that the new democratically elected
government will "build on the close and multi-faceted
engagement between the two countries".
Maldives-watchers have pointed out China's efforts to increase
its presence in the Maldives that may pose a threat to India's
interests. But unlike repeatedly expressed fears in India
over the new Maoist regime's pro-China tilt, there are no
such anxieties haunting India about the Maldives turning into
a hub of great game in the Indian Ocean region.
has provided money for developmental projects in the Maldives
and off and on there are reports about China entering into
a deal to build a naval base in one of the Maldives islands
- reports which have been vehemently denied by Gayoom himself.
is not much for India to worry here, says Mehta.
small country such as the Maldives knows it can't mess around
with India. It's too dependant on India for security,"
and fair elections could not have happened without a nod and
nudge from India, the US and global community. There will
be a continuity in India's relations with the Maldives,"
said Subrahmanyam while ruling out India-China rivalry in
provides training to the Maldives' defence personnel and hardware
for its military. India recently presented INS Tillanchang,
a fast attack craft that is designed for quick and covert
operations against smugglers, gunrunners and terrorists.
Indians are the largest expatriate community in the Maldives
with a population of 19,430 that forms an enduring human bridge
between the two countries.
large number of Maldives diplomats have been trained in India,
said Ahmed Shaheed, former foreign minister of Maldives. India
was also quick to help when the 2004 tsunami struck the Maldives,
he pointed out.