Rise of Islamism in Maldives a cause of worry for India

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Magh Krushna Shashthi, Kaliyug Varsha 5113

Rise of Islamism is the worry for whole world !

New Delhi : On May 27, 2009, a suicide attack on the ISI headquarters in Lahore had a relatively unknown bomber, Ali Jaleel, a Maldivian terrorist, who had joined al-Qaida some time earlier.
 
It sent a chill through the Indian establishment, and India’s fears of rising Islamism in the Maldives increased in 2010, when it was revealed that nine Maldivian terrorists had been arrested in Pakistan’s South Waziristan agency, where they were training with Al-Qaida and Taliban elements. Mohamed Nasheed, the deposed Maldives president, too, had gone on record in a TV interview to caution India that radicalized Maldivian youths were being indoctrinated and trained by Pakistan-based terror groups.
 
In fact, some of the demonstrations before Mohamed Nasheed was overthrown were against the monuments donated by Saarc countries during the November summit, dubbing them "Un-Islamic". In the chaos of the past week, radicals plundered through Maldives national museum, destroying rare ancient Buddhist statues.
 
The threat of Islamist extremism in India’s periphery has been growing, particularly in the past few years and more discernibly since 2008. For India, trying to restore peace and stability in Maldives, the events of the past week cannot be seen in the perspective of a mere internal political crisis.
 
The new Maldivian President, Mohamed Waheed, on Sunday inducted seven new faces into his cabinet, including the first woman attorney-general Azima Shakoor. Most of the new faces belong to different parties, but all of them have a history of having been close to former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom, who many said was orchestrating the political crisis, is also expected to return to Maldives soon. Waheed has also appointed a couple of Islamist-leaning members, notably home minister Jaleel Ahmed.
 
For the time being, India is urging a peaceful transition and restoration of stability before elections. This seems to be echoed by both the Waheed government as well as the US. But Nasheed has been pushing for snap elections and promises to keep the streets alive with his demonstrations.
 
While India is fighting shy of appearing to intervene openly in Maldives, there is a debate on whether to let the Maldivians take the next steps themselves, or be "helped" by India. Proponents of a more hands-on Indian policy in Maldives argue that the current "vacuum" could only help the Islamists consolidate their position.
 
The growth of Islamic radicalism in Maldives can be traced to the beginning of the last decade. Like in Bangladesh, Pakistani jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have been making inroads to indoctrinate young men in a conservative Sunni society, that has been bogged down with slow growth, political authoritarianism (until 2008, certainly) and mushrooming madrassas with Arab funds.
 
None of this is good news for India. Intelligence circles believe this is part of Pakistan’s strategic outreach, to penetrate Islamic jihadism in India’s periphery, which could be a constraining factor on India’s own development.
 
In an analysis, the US-based Jamestown Foundation wrote, "The infiltration of Pakistani militants in the Maldives goes back to the post-tsunami period. The Pakistan-based Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq (IKK), a charitable front of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), reached the Maldives in the wake of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami under the guise of providing humanitarian services… According to intelligence sources, the IKK spearheaded LeT’s activities in the Maldives, which focused on drawing youths into its fold. The IKK reported spending $282,000 in the Maldives, although the Maldivian government says the organization was never registered as a charitable group providing post-tsunami relief."
 
Most of the Islamic ideology in Maldives is Ahle-Hadith, which is also the school followed by LeT. But Salafist ideologies are now also evident. Nasheed tried to make a deal with them and even had the Adhaalat Party, the Islamist party, as part of his coalition. In his interview with TOI, the new president Mohamed Waheed said, "Our view is the best way of dealing with Islamist ideology is to engage with them and work with them. That, we believe is the right and democratic way to go about it."
 
Maldives is particularly crucial because its geographical position situates it right in the middle of major sea routes in the Indian Ocean. But equally, a radicalized section of the tiny population of Maldives could make it so much easier for the ISI-Lashkar combine to use them as a staging ground for terror attacks against India.

Source : TOI

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