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Operation Cactus: What happened in November 1988, when Maldivian President asked India for help

This week, thirty-two years ago, India launched an operation, operation Cactus, to help the Maldives as the country faced its biggest challenge–a coup launched by mercenaries. The operation forever etched in the India Maldives history of close cooperation shows how the Indian Navy played a significant role, especially in the Indian Ocean region’s security and stability.

On the intervening night of 2nd and 3rd November 1988, around 200 to 300 armed mercenaries landed in the country’s capital, capturing key installations. The then President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, requested help from New Delhi and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Indian Army’s para brigade brought on IL 76 immediately brought things under control in the Indian Ocean Island. Still, it was the mid-ocean chase and rescue that was the most challenging part of the operation. The mercenaries, led by the leader Abdulla Luthufee fled on vessel MV Progress light and hostages, including a Maldivian govt minister. Indian navy ship–training ship Tir and Frigate Godavari were diverted to the country. The commanding officer of Godavari was the CTF– Commander Task Force.

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