India needs to be worried … very worried. If the doom and gloom scenario projected by leaders of Maldives’ major opposition party - the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is true, then the brutally violent Islamic State (IS) may well be setting up base, right in India’s backyard.
This writer met the visiting former foreign minister of Maldives Ahmed Naseem in New Delhi on Friday evening and a couple of other senior functionaries of the MDP. Besides, this writer also conducted a telephonic interview with Mohammed Nasheed, who served as the fourth President of Maldives from 2008 to 2012, one of the co-founders of the MDP who lost the recent presidential elections and Abdulla Yameen became the President.
During the course of a face-to-face interview Naseem came up with a stunner that at least 200 Maldivians have been recruited by IS and are currently fighting in Syria on behalf of this brutal outfit.
Naseem’s most damning allegation was that he suspected Maldives’ Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed to be behind Maldives’ rapid degeneration into Wahabi Islam. He alleged that his country’s Islamic Affairs Minister was in cahoots with the IS.
Former President Nasheed added more grime to this grisly narrative when he told this writer that most of Maldivian recruits to the IS went through the Turkey route and the Islamic Affairs Minister was a frequent traveler to Turkey.
Nasheed said Maldives, a 100 per cent Muslim archipelago of just about 350,000 people, was fast becoming a fertile recruiting ground of hard core jihadists and the international community needed to act fast before it was too late. Incidentally, the Yameen government has accused Nasheed himself of fomenting terrorism and is contemplating to book him under terrorism charges.
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, International Spokesperson of the MDP, told this writer that “dozens” of the 200-odd Maldivians recruited by the IS had returned to Maldives. The implication is clear: the Maldivian IS recruits who have returned home may have done so to set up a base in Maldives.
Naseem, the former foreign minister, says that his party had all the necessary details including the photographs of such persons.
Omar Razzak, the former State Minister and a member of the MDP Foreign Relations Committee as well as the MDP National Council, told this writer that the Islamist threat was real and it was only a matter of when, not if, the dreaded IS sets up shop big time in Maldives.
Incidentally, it is not the first time the top leadership of the MDP has made serious charges against the Yameen government since it swept into power following the presidential elections in November 2013. Former President Nasheed had also made similar charges during his visit to London in September 2014 as well.
More of Nasheed’s remarks in this context can be seen in this Independent story.
However, the notable point is that not only is the MDP is sticking to these allegations but is also pushing the envelope further by targeting the Maldivian Islamic Affairs Minister as responsible for pushing the country into jihadists hands.
It is difficult to dismiss these serious allegations as the main opposition party of Maldives, the MDP, is making these charges.
Maldives, a SAARC country, definitely needs more attention from India urgently. While the international community is seized of the serious threats posed to world peace and harmony by the IS, it will be India which would be immediately affected if the charges were indeed true.
If true, the allegations would mean that for the first time the Islamic State would be spreading its wings right under India’s nose in it’s backyard.
It is for this reason that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming bilateral visit to Maldives in less than three weeks from now would be all the more significant.
And here we have still not talked about the omnipresent China angle, the fragile Maldivian polity, the collapse of government-opposition relationship in Maldives, the worsening security scenario in the Indian Ocean, the Sri Lanka-type Maldivian political narrative wherein the Chinese juggernaut is continuing with its overdrive relentlessly.
The writer is FirstPost Consulting Editor and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.
Updated Date: Feb 21, 2015 16:21:06 IST