Male: Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid here on Sunday praised India for its invaluable support rendered on November 3, 1988, when responding to a plea by then President Abdul Gayoom the Indian Army launched Operation Cactus to quell a coup.
In a statement on Maldives’ 31st Victory Day, Shahid said, “We honour all those who undertook the duties entrusted to them with unwavering dedication and dignity and fought to preserve the sovereignty of this nation.
“It’s a day to value true friends and partnerships. The invaluable military support of the Indian government on November 3, 1988 remains etched in our hearts. Our highest gratitude and deepest appreciation shall never diminish,” he said.
Shahid said the attempted coup that day “showcased the special security threats and vulnerabilities faced by small states”.
“We shall, with resolute dedication, continue to work towards protecting our sovereignty and independence, through further engagement and enhanced cooperation with our friends and partners,” he said.
On that day, a group of 80-200 Sri Lankan militants from the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), backed by Maldivian businessman Abdulla Luthufi, mounted a coup in Maldives. They infiltrated Male and took control of key points in the capital.
Then President Abdul Gayoom, who took refuge in the Maldives National Security Service headquarters, requested military assistance from several countries, including India.
Under then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian Air Force airlifted some 300 paratroopers from Agra to Male, landing on the Hulhule Island, which was still under the control of Maldivian security services.
Additional Indian troops were transported by air and by sea from Cochin and Air Force Mirages were deployed over Male as a show of force. The Indian troops took control of Male within hours and rescued Gayoom.
While most Indian troops were withdrawn after the order was restored, around 150 troops stayed there for a year to prevent any other coup attempt.
India’s action was hailed by the international community, including then US President Ronald Reagan and UK Premier Margaret Thatcher.