Operation Cactus

Indian Military Intervention in the Maldives, 1988

Sanjay Badri-Maharaj

In 1988, the Indian armed force carried out a daring intervention in the Maldives following an attempted coup by Tamil insurgents from Sri Lanka. Operation Cactus details India's most ambitious out of area intervention to date.
Date Published :
November 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Illustration :
55 b/w photos, 2 b/w maps, 1 color map, 16 color profiles, 6 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781914377020
Pages : 66
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8.25 inches
Stock Status : Available


In 1988, the Indian Army and Air Force, ably supported by the Indian Navy, carried out a daring intervention in the Maldives. The government of the Maldives, led by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, facing an attempted coup by PLOTE, a renegade group of Tamil insurgents from Sri Lanka, sent out a request for help, to which India responded.

Operation Cactus details this, India’s most ambitious out of area intervention to date. The book describes the history, economy, demography and politics of the Maldives with an emphasis on the government of the day and the strategic value of the islands to PLOTE as well as the geopolitical ramifications for India in respect to the need to secure its influence in the area.

Operation Cactus details the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force of the 1980s, with particular emphasis on elements that could be used in out of area interventions and the transport assets of the Indian Air Force and the amphibious capabilities of the Indian Navy. The Maldives National Security Service of 1988 is also discussed and its evolution into the Maldives National Defense Force in the aftermath of the 1988 coup.

The PLOTE attempt to overthrow the Gayoom government and the resistance it faced from the NSS, along with Operation Cactus itself are described in detail, along with the intervention by India, including operational planning, mobilization of forces and the force levels committed. The actual landing in the Maldives, the paucity of intelligence and the force selection are detailed along with the confrontation with PLOTE and the latter’s desperate attempt to escape by sea and the Indian Navy’s counter to this.

Operation Cactus includes original color artworks of the aircraft and troops involved in this unique intervention.

About The Author

Sanjay Badri-Maharaj from Trinidad, received his MA and PhD from the Department of War Studies, Kings College London. His thesis was on India’s Nuclear Weapons Program. He has written and published extensively, including two books – The Armageddon Factor: Nuclear Weapons in the India-Pakistan Context (2000) and Indian Nuclear Strategy: Confronting the Potential Nuclear Threat from both Pakistan and China (2018). He has served as a consultant to the Ministry of National Security in Trinidad and was a visiting International Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. This is his first instalment for Helion.


"...offers ways to empathize with Indian and other developing forces and techniques to maximize partnerships. The interwoven history of the three countries provides important context for understanding the dynamics of the region that are beset with strategic competition and climate change challenges of vital national interest."

- Lt Col Ann-Kristine H. Thrift, Campaigning: The Journal of the Joint Forces Staff College

"...will be of interest to modelers and military historians alike."

- AMPS Indianapolis

"...marvelously laid out and would make for a nifty scenario of a relatively obscure action."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"The book has very good pictures of the equipment used by the Indian forces."


"...goes into background history of the political situation in the Maldives, and a great deal into the planning and the seemingly impossible task of getting together the forces needed to successfully perform the operation."

- ModelingMadness.Com

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