‘Operation Cactus’, a short and quick military intervention carried out in the Maldives in 1988 by the Indian armed forces, freed the foreign lands from the clutches of its invaders. And although, it has been discussed in bits and pieces throughout history, it never received as much attention as it should have.
Here are some astounding facts about the operation:
1. It was one of the first such operations to be led by India in a foreign land after independence and without UN’s involvement. It was sancitoned by PM Rajiv Gandhi
2. On Nov 3, 1988, India got a distress call from the President of Maldieves that his country was under seige from Sri Lanka. He made such calls to several other countries but Indians were the only ones who reached out to help.
Former President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
3. In order to help Maldives, India launched the most ambitious airborne operation (Op Cactus) since the 1971 Bangladesh War
4. India, which was operating under the guidance of Brigadier FC Bulsara, former commander of 9 Para (special forces), just had tourist maps for guidance through the terrain!
image: hindustan times
5. Indian High Commissioner to Maldives, AK Banerjee, was the first to notice during an operational planning session that Indians were going to land at the wrong airport. His intervention ensured that soldiers landed at the correct one.
6. Despite being ill-equipped and understaffed, the Indian military reacted with full force within 9 hours of the distress call! The operation was completed within a matter of days and Maldives was freed of Sri Lanka’s clutches
A recent book by former military engineer Sushant Singh, ltitled Operation Cactus: Mission Impossible in the Maldives gives details about the operation that were not revealed before.