It’s a story I have heard since I was young. A story of a group of Maldivian traitors collaborating with Tamil terrorists to take over the capital Male’. A story of the valor of the martyrs who laid their lives for the nation that day. There’s no Maldivian who isn’t familiar with the events of the day.
The other thing that gets talked about regarding the day is how India came to Maldives’ defense. Indian figures and related parties push this narrative every single year. The narrative has gone to the extent that there are several Maldivians who actually believe that had it not been for Indian intervention, the Maldives would be drastically different.
But is this true?
Thirty-two years have elapsed since the day. A revisionist approach on the issue is needed, in my humble opinion. Let’s dive into history, separate facts from fiction.
The insurrection was led by Abdullah Luthfee of H. Haajaraage. The Tamil collaborators were the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Elam (PLOTE). Several sources report that PLOTE is an organization funded by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s intelligence wing. These sources have published photos of PLOTE leader Uma Maheshwaran in RAW training camps. The links between PLOTE and RAW are not secrets. This begs the question, could PLOTE really have attempted the attack without any hints to India.
Shivshankar Menon, who served as National Security Adviser of India under Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, wrote in his book “Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy” that RAW was tasked with training and spending on terror organizations such as LTTE. He goes ahead to name PLOTE as another organization that had received funding and training from RAW.
Prior to splintering away to form PLOTE, Uma Maheshwaran was the head of the central committee of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). As the chair, he was second in command of LTTEE, after Velupillai Prabhakaran. In addition to training in India, Maheshwaran underwent training in Syria and Lebanon. He was well versed in tactical warfare, regional and international politics – there is no doubt about that.
Therefore, is it believable that someone of his stature would not be aware of the consequences of leading an attack on the Maldives? Is it believable that he and his allies would be able to take over the Maldives’ capital in small boats and limited militia? Is it believable there would not be any regional repercussions? Is it believable that a group skilled in military warfare would be so ill prepared? Or was it a case of them waiting for backup? Is it believable that Luthfee, a novice in guerilla tactics, would be able to easily gain access to Uma Maheshwaran?
Even in 1988, India was running surveillance operations in Indian Ocean and in Sri Lankan waters. Dornier 228 flights were in operation in the area, regularly used to monitor the seas. Radar systems, though not as sophisticated as now, were being used. Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, the safety and security of the Indian Ocean region was a priority for the nations of the region. Several Indian spies were active in Sri Lanka.
Based on these simple but explosive facts, it would be highly unlikely a group of PLOTE fighters would be able to circumnavigate the Indian intelligence web and military surveillance.
Indian officers refused to leave the Maldives!
When the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom appealed for help following the attacks, India responded. However, by the time Indian forces arrived, the rebels had fled the capital. India’s assistance in the matter was limited to rescuing the hostages taken by the rebels.
After this, Indian officers set up camp in the capital Male’. They left a year after the attack. Members of the then administration would attest that the officers left due to pressure raised by them. A former member of the administration reported in confidence, that regional countries did not believe that India would ever leave Maldives. He added that in spite of this, President Gayoom had succeeded in the attempt.
He said the then Indian government had offered a lot of protests whenever the subject was broached. Their stance, he said, was to stay in the Maldives as long as they could.
“Within the circles of the then government, there was absolutely no doubt that the attack was backed by India. But can we really say that out loud?” he said.
The statements made by former Foreign Minister, the late Al-Usthaz Fath’hullah Jameel, in UN General Assembly in 1989, lends support to this claim. In his speech, Jameel agreed that larger nations step in to assist when the safety and security of smaller nations are at risk, adding his thanks for such actions. However, he noted that bilateral agreements made between nations, often fail to protect the sovereignty of smaller nations. Jameel elaborated on this, stating that there was a lot of differing views on issues in the international sphere. This, he said, was a contributor in viewing such actions as something other than altruistic actions. Looking at this speech, we can see that this a formal complaint on India by the Maldives.
Based on the lack of preparation by PLOTE, the Indian officer’s resistance on leaving, and the statements made by the Indian Government, we can surmise that November 3rd, 1988 was a false flag operation. The outcome of this, would be centralized Indian control.