India’s hegemonic designs irk Maldives

Mohammad Jamil

LAST month, Maldives opposition led by former president Mohammed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party expressed concern that Abdulla Yameen government’s move to call for all-party talks was an attempt to ease international condemnation over its recent actions and a time-buying tactic. The alliance of Opposition parties in the Maldives had appealed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to mediate dialogue between them and the government, to ensure credibility in resolving the Indian Ocean nation’s political turmoil.

The Opposition’s request followed the UN Secretary General’s statement reiterating the United Nations’ offer to facilitate all-party dialogue in finding a solution to the Indian Ocean nation’s political stalemate. Save for Bhutan, which has been subdued by India’s bullying tactics much of South Asia has major grievances against New Delhi today. It means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the BJP-led government’s neighbourhood diplomacy.

While New Delhi’s unfriendly relationship with Islamabad is not surprising, what has provoked the other countries, some of them figured very high on Narendra Modi’s bilateral priorities, to suddenly come out openly against India? India always desired for keeping Maldives as its client state, however, interference in internal matters of the country increased manifold with attempt to install a pro-India government by hook or by crook. Global Times in its editorial has highlighted Indian anxieties with regard to Maldives stating: “India has a strong desire to control South Asian countries. It regards the region as its backyard. New Delhi is particularly sensitive to any endeavour by small South Asian states toward independence and autonomy, especially ties with other major powers. All small South Asian nations want to extricate themselves from India’s excessive leverage.” The problem is that India views Sino-Maldivian closeness with increasing strategic anxieties.

Maldives has been trying to engage China to construct a port in Northern Atoll, which straddles West Asia, South East Asia and is located close to India’s Lakshadweep Island i.e. 700 km. In August 2017, Maldives also permitted three Chinese warships to visit the country overruling India’s protest. Indian designs of establishing hegemony in the region are not hidden from anyone. In pursuance to this malicious agenda, India has been interfering in internal affairs of neighbouring countries. It had had gone all out to downgrade sovereign state of Nepal into its client state. Similarly, India despite having friendly ties with Pro-India Bangladeshi Government led by Awami League is exerting pressure to resolve Teesta river dispute on Indian terms. Modi’s confrontationist posture towards neighbours is unlikely to benefit India; however, giving them respect can lead to harmonious coexistence. Of course, India is wary of China’s increasing influence in Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Nepal has been a prime target of Indian deep state stratagem to make it a client state after subduing Bhutan and Maldives. Nepal has many a time tried to break the octopus squeeze of India, but due to geographically landlocked position, contiguity and trade dependence, Nepal had to compromise to avoid the wrath of India. So immense was the Indian interference in Nepalese socio-politico and economic affairs that the nation could not adopt a consensus constitution after a decade of political infighting. And when it did adopt a federal, democratic and secular Constitution in 2015, India had instigated Madheshi and Tharu people living in Terai region of Nepal. These proxies created unrest through protests, and India enforced economic blockade of Nepal in 2015, which resulted in a serious shortages of food, medicines and fuel etc., thus adding to the miseries of Nepalese people.

On February 08, 2018, Nepal’s Communist parties secured an overwhelming majority in the Upper House of Parliament with 39 seats out of 56 seats, paving the way for the Leftist alliance to form the country’s next government led by its leader KP Sharma Oli. Earlier, the Left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre had secured 174 seats in the 275-member Parliament in the country’s historic provincial and parliamentary polls in 2015 that many hoped could bring much-needed political stability to the Himalayan nation. People of Nepal are valiant and they have been resisting India’s hegemonic designs, which India appears to have realized belatedly. Last month, during the meeting with the leaders of Terai based parties, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that constitution amendment was internal issue of Nepal; thus the Terai based leaders should cooperate with the left alliance government and resolve the issue of constitutional amendment.

Moreover, by intervening in Sri Lanka’s domestic politics decades ago, first by propping up the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and then by sending military forces to ‘keep peace’ there, it ended up creating bigger problems for itself. India should learn lesson from the history and stay away from interfering in the domestic politics of its neighbours. Since India knows that Pakistan is the hurdle in its hegemonic designs, it is trying to isolate Pakistan by spoiling relations with Afghanistan also. India has excellent relations with Afghan government and also NDS. Through them India is promoting ethnic disharmony in Pakistan. Instead of making meaningless statements, Afghan government should seriously do something to facilitate the return of its refugees in a dignified way. Apart from that, Indian government is stooping so low as to use Cine Employees Federation for placing a ban on Pakistani artists/technicians for working in Indian producers’ films.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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