I believe we have a problem in hand, a problem that we might be faced with if we do not seriously think about and take proper measures. Our neighbour and strategic partner, India has recently seen a wave of terror attacks that targeted western tourists. Most recently, last week’s terror attack in Mumbai, a series of attacks with meticulous planning that shocked the world, took the elite forces of India 60 hrs to bring an end to. It is still not clear who is responsible for the attacks although reports are emerging that it has been linked to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani based international terrorist organization that is said to have links with Al Qaeda. Indian security forces took 10 hrs to respond to the initial site of attack and its intelligence machinery has failed to prevent this attack that killed over 180 people. This has put the Indian national security architecture on the drawing board and has led to the resignation of key government figures related to homeland and national security.
I cannot put anything here about the Mumbai attack that you have not got from open source materials, nor am I trying to make an analysis of it. My emphasis here is that our small nation, the Maldives needs to act on to prevent to our best of abilities if not review our capabilities to prevent, respond to and tackle such threats to our national security. Tourism is our main source of income and hence it is vital to our economy, therefore the protection of the tourism industry should be one of our national security interests. If we do a recap of recent incidents that have threatened our national security, we all know that the intrusion by a LTTE vessel into our territorial waters, the Sultan Park bombing, stand off at the island of Himendhoo and the assassination attempt on former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom were serious national security breaches. We now have added worries or risks in the form of the current economic crisis, maritime terrorism/piracy that has become rampant and now terrorists targeting tourists.
A National Security Strategy
To my understanding, I do not know if we have a national security strategy. If not, then it is high time we formulate one. This would require the chief security institutions; MNDF and MPS to sit together to make assessments and identify threats to our national security. Perhaps the newly created post of National Security Advisor currently held by the former Chief of Defence Force, Major General Mohamed Zahir could be made the chair of a National Security Committee, appointed by the president with the approval of parliament. No matter how small we are or how poor in resources, we are not immune or unconsidered to contemporary threats. The threats are real and we have witnessed it close by. We have issues ranging from climate change/natural disasters, economic security, religious extremism, home grown terrorism, neglected critical infrastructure and organized crime to mention a few that might threaten our nation’s security if we do not act accordingly.
This is an era nations are rethinking and rebuilding their security architecture to deal with asymmetric threats. For us, formulating a comprehensive and holistic National Security Strategy for the next 5 years would be the starting point. Next could be to build on to it by reviewing and improving our capabilities with a greater focus on benefiting from strategic alliances and through bilateral, plurilateral or multilateral cooperation with the international community to strengthen our nation’s security.