The age old notion of India being the de-facto guardian of all states within the Indian ocean is in India’s eyes credence to India’s claim on it being the big brother to the whole south Asia. However, much like George Orwell’s big brother, India’s hegemonic policies has progressively become detrimental to the stability in the region.
Moreover since the 1962 Sino-Indian war along the Aksai Chin, Indian foreign policies has increasingly grown to undermine the sovereignty of its fellow South Asian states through a combination of diplomatic and clandestine operations. This was clearly seen in our neighboring Sri Lanka over the course of its 30 year long civil war.
Following the growing clashes between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations in the 1960’s, the ethnic imbalances and discrimination in Sri Lanka at that time against the Tamil minorities forced students to take action against the government under the banner of “Tamil Students League”, the precursor to the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam”. However, the organization would not take arms until 1976 when Indian intelligence agency RAW recruited, armed and trained the group. The infamous Velupillai Prabakharan and the leadership of the LTTE received their military training at the Sirumalai training camp in south India.
Prabhakaran along with LTTE leader at Sirumalai camp, India.
The following civil war would result in the deaths of 80,000 Sri Lankans. Through India has repeatedly refuted their involvement in the formation of the militarized LTTE, facts remains to the contrary. The 1988 terrorist attack in the Maldives by the PLOTE under Uma Maheshwaran was also known to have close ties to the Indian intelligence community, acting as its proxy in Sri Lanka.
Since 2011, concern on the exact nature bilateral relations between India and Maldives has been growing amongst the public. On 13th February 2013, former President Nasheed was given refuge inside of the High Commission of India in the Maldives. The unprecedented decision to provide refuge for the disgraced ex-President was soon met with negative sentiments by both the government and the people of the Maldives.
India retaliated to this by tightening its exports to Maldives along with implementing a harsh visa policy for Maldivians. Key exports to Maldives in the construction and staple food sector was brought to a halt. Several hundred Maldivian students studying in India also had their visa’s rejected while locals wishing to travel India for medical purposes had to queue in front of the embassy for 10 hours a day.
Headline from now defunct “Minivan News” on the 10 hour Visa queue.
Following the November 2013 presidential elections, President Yameen’s decision to work with alternative trade partners to end the dependency on India was met with bitter sentiments from Indian journalists and diplomats. Many accused President Yameen of being under the control of Beijing while then government maintained that the Maldivian government was open to work with all states ready to work with consideration to each other’s independence and right to self-determination.
The Indo-Maldives relations went to a breaking point when Indian military personnel who had been stationed in the Maldives as temporary flight crew for the lent helicopters, refused to leave the Maldives even after they had their visa’s cancelled by the government of Maldives. Fast forward to 2020, pro-Indian Solih administration refuses to reveal any details of the Indian military personnel in the Maldives. Even the exact number of Indian military personnel has been kept a state secret, citing irrevocable damage to the bilateral relations with India.
Amidst growing public concern over the Indian military presence in the Maldives, members of the public have questioned the exact nature of the relations between Maldives and India. A quick search shows that India is currently involved with virtually every level of every institute and organization within the Maldives. From the Executive Office, Supreme Court, the Parliament to even the Civil Service Commission of Maldives.
Indian influence in the governemnt of Maldives in undeniable.
Online protests against the growing Indian military presence has been floating for the past 3 weeks with many denizens of twitter gathering under the banner of #IndiaOut with more than 20,000 tweets made while Indian think tanks has gone all out on a misinformation campaign against Pro-independence Maldivians.
Growing tension between Pro-Indian government and the pro-independence public has reached its boiling point with many pointing out the excessive influence, the Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Sudhir has on the government of Maldives with many pointing out how he is essentially making the calls instead of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Thought the government has officially refuted every claim of Indian influence, it is evident that the situation is to the contrary. The once bilateral relations with India has waned on one side to a unilateral relation. Under the guise of diplomacy, India has successfully interwoven its influence on to every level of our government and society. The opposition PPM has also maintained its stance of pro-independence by declaring o protest against Indian influence in the Maldives. However the situation may unfold, the future of Maldives and its independence and sovereignty will be directly tied to the polls of the 2023 Presidential election.