Besides small arms and mortars, a “few tanks” form part of the 400-600 Indian army soldiers’ weaponry in the event of their departure for Male, the Maldives capital, once the military top brass receives political clearance to deploy for the island nation besieged by its own troops.
The Indian troops, which are being led by a unit of the army’s special forces, remain on standby at the IAF’s Yelahanka airbase since Monday evening after a 15-day state of emergency was declared in Maldives by President Abdulla Yameen, even as former head of state Mohamed Nasheed appealed to New Delhi, seeking military and diplomatic intervention to stem the deepening political crisis in that country. Nasheed, the exiled former Maldives president, heads the Maldivian Democratic Party which functions out of Colombo.
The SoP and the Objective
If they go in, Indian troops' task would be to:
- Step in to restore order in Maldives where the ensuing political chaos could lead to instability, in which opposition leaders in greater numbers could become targets of state repression.
- Secondly, New Delhi would, by letting its army launch an operation in Maldives, send out a signal that just as in 1988, it is prepared now to act decisively to go the aid of an ally.
- Thirdly, an airborne and ground operation would establish India's intent and role in the Indian Ocean, besides signalling regional powers such as China and Pakistan that it reserves the right to act in its own self-interest.
Defence ministry sources said that “if and when” the army receives a “green signal” the Indian troops will be flown over the Indian Ocean by IAF’s Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs and Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft which are in “full readiness” at Yelahanka. The Quint has verified the information from more than one source.
The sources claimed that even as the assessment of the higher echelons of the national security leadership do not foresee the use of tanks, the defence establishment felt that “abundant caution” required dispatching the armoured vehicles.
The C-17s are capable of carrying heavy armoured tanks, the defence sources said, adding that the Globemasters have sufficient room to fit two tanks per aircraft.
Maldives Spirals Into Crisis
The decision to keep army troops on standby arose after Yameen declared emergency after that country’s Supreme Court ruling ordered the release of nine opposition political leaders on finding their arrest and trial politically motivated and, therefore, “flawed”.
This led Yameen to defy the Supreme Court’s order before paving way for the arrest of the Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, plunging Maldives into the most serious crisis since Nasheed resigned in February 2012, following opposition pressure backed by a section of the army and the police.
While it may appear that the initial build-up and preparedness would culminate in immediate action on the part of New Delhi, the lapse of a full 24 hours after Maldives slipped into political crisis indicates that the Indians would observe caution and restraint and not exhaust the diplomacy option to resolve the crisis in Maldives.
According to sources, however, the continuing presence of the troops and aircraft at Yelahanka indicates that the Indian political and security establishment have not entirely given up on the military option. Indian military observers feel that the 400-600 troops on standby will be “sufficient” to deal with the Maldives’ armed forces, which is between 5,000-10,000 men.