NEW DELHI, Nov 4, Reuter: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said Indian Troops crushed an attempt by mercenaries to overthrow the Maldives government, but they ‘would be staying on the Indian Ocean islands for search operations,

Gandhi told the upper house of parliament on Friday that Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had sought help for search and mopping up operations, the United’ News of India said.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi sent 1,600 paratroopers and three naval vessels to the Indian Ocean Archipelago on Thursday hours after President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom asked for help to defeat an invasion by foreign mercenaries,

“Our response was a clear manifestation of our commitment to *peace and’ stability in the region,” Gandhi told cheering members of parliament on Friday.

India’s move was backed by Sri Lankan President Junius Jayewardene, who said he supported every initiative that was taken to aid the Maldives government to defeat the coup attempt.

Nepal also welcomed Gandhi’s move, while Pakistan, with whom India has fought three wars since 1947, made no official comment. Bangladesh said it was also willing to give military assistance to the Maldives.

Western diplomat’s sources said the Maldives operation as well as previous Indian military moves had raised fears among the smaller neighbors about India’s growing military strength.

“It can be seen as projection of not just Indian military power but also a signal of its naval presence in the Indian ocean,” said a diplomat.

India has embarked on a major buildup of its naval forces, taking on a leased soviet nuclear submarine earlier this year to project itself as a “blue water” power and not simply one capable of patrolling its own coastal waters,

The businessman, who asked not to be identified, said transport and shipping Minister Ahmed Mujuthaba and a member of the Maldives Parliament, Ismael Nasser, were among those taken hostage by the fleeing mercenaries.

In New Delhi, a government spokesman said India was withdrawing some of the more 1,150 troops which it airlifted in to crush the assault.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 11, 1988