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Maldives folly

New Delhi needs to make clear its opposition to the Maldives regime’s efforts to strangle democracy.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: November 6, 2015 12:10:34 am
Maldives, Maldives president, Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Yameen speedboat blast, speedboat blast, maldives speedboat blast, Yameen Abdul Gayoom hajj, Yameen Hajj, Yameen boat, Indian ocean, world latest news The US, UK and several European states have called on President Abdulla Yameen to roll back his proclamation of an emergency.

For a government led by a party born in the crucible of India’s own Emergency, there ought to have been no indecision on this issue. Yet, faced with the Maldives’ decision to dismantle the constitutionally guaranteed rights of its citizens, New Delhi has chosen silence as its strategy. The US, UK and several European states have called on President Abdulla Yameen to roll back his proclamation of an emergency on Wednesday; India has said only that it is “closely watching the situation”. The Maldives government’s case for the emergency is that some armed individuals, possibly loyal to the country’s incarcerated vice president, are planning acts of violence. Yet, it also insists that tourists are safe, making clear these threats are not of dangerous. There has been no explanation of why these threats, moreover, require the abrogation of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly, or their protections against arbitrary detention.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the realist philosopher, urged rulers to base policies on “the effectual truth of the matter rather than the imagined one” — in other words, to base their decision-making on the sum of practical conditions. This is what Delhi imagines it is doing. India’s silence on the Maldives emergency, like its relationship with the military junta in Myanmar, is driven by fear that confrontation might tilt these regimes towards China. India’s strategic community has long hailed this as realism, seeing it as a welcome departure from the ideologically driven excesses of earlier decades.

To students of realism, though, it will be clear that Delhi’s policy is not the thing itself, just a simulacrum. In the Melian Dialogues, a foundational text of international relations, ancient Athenian ambassadors state the realist position to the Melians they have beseiged thus: “We both know that the decisions about justice are made in human discussions only when both sides are under equal compulsion, but when one side is stronger, it gets as much as it can, and the weak must accept that.” But the Athenians’ blind faith in power politics leads them, the same chronicle tells us, to hubris and defeat. India may succeed in keeping the Maldives government on its side, but it will lose the support of its population, and future rulers. China’s economic might will shape its presence in the Maldives regardless. It is no one’s case that Delhi ought to cut off diplomatic relations with the Maldives, or seek to impose sanctions. Delhi must, however, make clear its opposition to the regime’s efforts to strangle democracy.

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First published on: 06-11-2015 at 12:10:31 am
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