Maldives: Dress rehearsal for Sri lanka

On the 7th of February  President of Maldives Nasheed was overthrown in a military coup. Although there was confusion whether Nasheed resigned on his own or at the gunpoint fact remains that democratically elected president was forced out by a combination street action and military threat.

Nasheed who was a political activist is the first democratically elected President of Maldives. He was elected in 2008 defeating longtime dictator Gayoom. Nasheed was in prison for political activities during Gayoom's rule. Nasheed's election was welcomed by west who collaborated with Gayoom during his rule. British Prime minister David Cameron called Nasheed as his new friend. Nasheed also became a prominent voice in world environmental forums.
However during the period of last two years Nasheed embarked on erratic actions. Allowing Israeli airlines to linkup with Maldives and the arrest of a judge who freed a corrupt figure from Gayoom's period turned Islamic and some liberal figures against Nasheed. In addition increase in fuel prices and other essential commodities dented Nasheed's popularity.

Nasheed's actions to tackle corruption under Gayoom's rule antagonized many of the wealthy resort owners in Maldives. Tourism in Maldives is a huge business  with very little Government control. Tourists arrive in Maldives and whisked away to remote isles without any interaction with the local population. Nasheed actions to change this and bring tourism under the control of the Government antagonized powerful business interests.

By the beginning of this year pro Gayoom forces and Islamic fundamentalists mounted concerted campaign on the streets to overthrow the government.  Police forces joined the campaign and finally military forced Nasheed out. Vice President took over with the support of Gayoom's forces and Islamic fundamentalists. There is no difference between this coup and the overthrow of Zelaya in Honduras. During Obama's rule Military coups are carried out with a constitutional facade.

Reaction from overseas is very pointing. U.S recognized the new government immediately. U.S was followed by European Union and surrogate United Nations. India which intervened in 80s to protect Gayoom from an armed invasion by Srilankan Tamil group was caught unawares by the coup and sent an envoy to negotiate between the new government and Nasheed's supporters who still controlled the parliament. In reality India is playing second fiddle to U.S in it's own region. India over the years due economic and military reasons has become a surrogate to U.S.

What is U.S interests in Maldives? U.S interests are primarily strategic rather than economic. Maldives lies in important sea lanes in Indian Ocean. Control of Maldives and Srilanka will give control over the sea lanes. This is critical for U.S in view of it's efforts to curtail China's strength. These sea lanes carry almost 70 % of world's oil supplies. U.S has already taken over the British former base in Singapore thereby choking malaccan straights. Control of Maldives and strategically important Trincomalee Harbor in Srilanka will give U.S absolute control over Indian Ocena. China will be reduced to a ordinary power with it's economy at the mercy of U.S. In addition Maldives and Srilanka will be used By U.S in any future military action against Iran any rogue Arab states. In view of the current instability in Arab world U.S needs reliable bases in Indian Ocean to protect it's interests in Middle East.

In SriLanka the present government of Rajapaksa has over the years damaged it's relationship with U.S by building ties with China. Since the crushing of LTTE in 2009,  U.S has become the self appointed protector of Tamil interests in Srilanka. In fact U.S helped Srilankan government to crush LTTE (which U.S considered an uncontrolled independent player in a critical region)  so that it can become the protector of Tamil diaspora interests. This explains U.S role in bringing the Srilankan issue in the U.N human rights council and to charge key members of Srilankan government and military for war crimes. Main purpose of this initiative is to drive a wedge between Rajapaksas and the military.

On the other hand U.S  does not consider opposition UNP leader as a viable alternative to Rajapaksa. U.S considers the imprisoned Army chief Sarath Fonseka as the alternative. As Rajapaksa government becomes internally unpopular due to cost of living and rising fuel prices external pressure will be mounted with threats of war crimes trials in U.N forums. At one point military leadership in Srilanka will abandon the Rajapaksas to protect their own skin. It is possible that Rajapaksas will end up in Hague.

Outcome will be a U.S supported Sarath Fonseka government in Srilanka with the support of Tamill party TNA. In return North and East will be given autonomy which will suit very well with U.S  to have a pliant state in North and East for the use of Trincomalee Harbour. India will still have their economic interests in Sri Lanka.

U.S intervention in Srilanka will only aggravate the relationship between Sinhalese and Tamil people in Srilanks similar to the Indian intervention in 80s. U.S intervention in Sudan has created two states which are permanently in conflict. Policies of the Sudanese government created conditions for U.S intervention in Sudan.

15th February 2012