Operation Cactus | By Dr. Mahipal Singh Rathore | Free PDF Download

Maldives Geography

200 coral islands
Capital – Male – 5.8 square km
World’s lowest country
Asia’s smallest country – 300 square km

 

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History

British colony till 1965
1965 – Independence
1978 – 2008 Abdul Gayoom

 

mapPhotograph of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi with Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mrs. Gayoom at the official residence of the Maldives President at Male of February 7, 1986. Credit : The Wire

The Attempted Coup d’état

• Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
• 3rd November 1988 – 3rd attempted Coup
• The coup was carried out by Sri Lankan Tamil militants – the People’s Liberation
Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) – on behalf of the Maldivian businessman
Abdulla Luthufi.

**PLOTE was a rival faction of LTTE in Sri Lanka
• About 80 armed PLOTE mercenaries landed in the capital Malé before dawn aboard
speedboats
• Disguised as visitors, a similar number had already infiltrated Malé earlier.
• The mercenaries quickly gained control of the capital, including the major government buildings, airport, port and television and radio stations.

However, they failed to capture President Gayoom,
• SOS sent to Pakistan, Sri Lanka,USA,UK and India
• Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi immediately dispatched 1,600 troops by air
• The Indian troops landed at the Malé International Airport on Hulhule Island
within 9 hours of the SOS being sent

India’s Challenges

Geography – Para force located in Agra – 2700 km away
Small size of Male and the lack of space for paradropping

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OPERATION CACTUS

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• The Indian paratroopers immediately secured the airfield, crossed over to Male using
commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom.
• The paratroopers restored control of the capital to President Gayoom’s government within hours
• Luthufi escaped in a small vessel, which the paratroopers managed to damage but not stop.
• Subsequently, INS Godavari and INS Betwa were despatched to track it down and capture him and the mercenaries.

• Leader of the Op Cactus – Brigadier FC Bulsara
• India received international praise for the operation.
• Ibrahim Nasir , the ex president of Maldives was blamed for being the leader behind it all but he was later pardoned by Gayoom

‘’Operation Cactus enhanced India’s prestige enormously and showed our efficiency and
capability to mount a successful operation at short notice. There was universal acknowledgement of our role as a police force in the area.’’  -BG Deshmukh,Cabinet secretary

Lessons for India

• The Indian Ocean is becoming more important by the day and India has vital stakes in its stability.
• The small island states in the area are vulnerable to the kind of threat that compelled India to send its paratroopers in 1988 on behalf and at the invitation of an elected government.
• There have been similar threats in Mauritius and Seychelles.
• Tri-service capability of quick reaction.

Indian History | Free PDF

By Dr. Mahipal Singh Rathore

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