Maldives Crisis

Maldives crisis: Is it time for an Indian military intervention?

India has intervened in Maldives in the past. Should it do so again? A round-up of opinion from the press.

Even as matters continued to unravel in the island nation of Maldives, where a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners led to a state of emergency, India has not decided on a course of action beyond urging the Maldivian leadership to act responsibly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern about the crisis in the Maldives, most recently on a phone call with US President Donald Trump, but the matter at least for India cannot just rest on expressions of concern.

Maldives is firmly in India’s regional sphere and New Delhi also has a number of commercial interests there, all of which are in danger as a result of the crisis. The island nation is also one of many countries where Indian and Chinese influence directly competes. And there is history too: India carried out a military intervention in the country three decades ago when it was roiled by a similar political crisis.

All of which has led to loud demands for India to take an active role in matters on the island nation accompanied by arguments that New Delhi would be wrong to resort to a military option. So should India intervene in Maldives? A selection of opinions:

Delhi surely knows one thing from its past interventions. The task of fixing other people’s problems is never easy. And not all consequences of intervention can really be predicted or managed.

Maldives might be tiny state with less than half a million people. With a deeply fractured political elite that has become acutely conscious of its strategic location, it will take a lot of Indian energy to repair the state of affairs in Maldives. But then that is the burden of all major powers, especially in their own regions.

  • Indrani Bagchi in the Times of India says it would be “monumentally stupid” for India to intervene militarily in the Maldives, and adds that looking at every neighbourhood issue as being a zero-sum game between New Delhi and Beijing is also problematic.

We can jump into another country to save it from itself. But if the US war in Iraq and Syria – and India’s own misadventure in Sri Lanka – has taught us anything, it is that when we embark on gunboat diplomacy, two things generally happen – we lose control of our fate because we get tangled in their internal dynamics; secondly, all their troubles and vices become ours.

Instead, this is the time to adopt the Deng Xiaoping method of statecraft – tread softly and carry a big stick. India has many big sticks in its arsenal, it would do well to play them smartly not muscularly.

  • A leader in Mint says that though there are many constraints when considering India’s ability to intervene, if it aspires to regional power status, let alone being a great one, it must take action in its own neighbourhood.

“It might make sense for India to sit out the internal affairs of faraway countries. But to do so in small, neighbouring countries will take away the mantle of regional leadership. It is true that India’s interventions in neighbouring countries will please some and alienate some, but that should be an acceptable cost for furthering Indian interests in the region...

The constraints notwithstanding, New Delhi should remember that if one petty dictator in the region is allowed to go scot-free after harming India’s interests, there will be more of them in future.”

  • Mohammad Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, in the Indian Express points to China’s involvement in the affairs of the island country as a reason for India to act (against his political opponent).

“It is essential that India leads the international community in forcing President Yameen to comply with last week’s Supreme Court order. This will pave the way for genuinely inclusive, free and fair elections with full international monitoring. If the Maldivian people so wish, they will then be afforded the chance to throw out this corrupt and criminal regime that is selling the country out from under their feet.”

Even as the Indian government issued its first public statement on Tuesday condemning the island nation’s government for declaring a state of emergency, it has yet to decide what role it will play in the ongoing Maldives crisis.

The decision, which has to be taken by the political leadership, has been stalled largely because many of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key advisors on foreign policy are not in the country. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is in Saudi Arabia and will be returning day after tomorrow; foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale is in Bhutan and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is currently not in New Delhi.

India was already involved in an overseas military operation in Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi had made it clear to his team of officials that the neighbourhood was India’s zone of influence. India, as the largest country in South Asia, had to bear the fallout of conflicts and unrest in its smaller neighbouring countries, and needed to be prepared to play its rightful role in the region.

Against that backdrop, Indian officials were able to swiftly put together a plan of action. As soon as Sahdev got off the call from Malé, he called Air Vice Marshal Denzil Keelor to tell him to ready an IAF team for the Maldives. Sahdev and the IAF were already working closely together on Sri Lanka, the two knew each other well and the usual channels were bypassed.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.