Operation Cactus was one of the most successful military manoeuvres carried out in South Asia by Indian forces in another country.
It came at a time when Indian peace keeping operations led by the IPKF in Sri Lanka received a huge setback as the LTTE killed several Indian troops.
It was a relief for Rajiv Gandhi’s government who had suffered humiliation in Sri Lanka as the IPKF was called back after the unsuccessful operation as the political leadership of the day failed to gauge the extent of LTTE's military strength.
Ronald Regan on coup
The swift action by India was praised by the international community.
US President Ronald Regan said after the coup:
“It’s a valuable contribution to regional stability”
UK PM Margaret Thatcher while congratulating India, said:
“Thank God for India: President Gayoom's government has been saved”
The Indian Army, Air Force & Navy carried out a textbook operation with no loss of life as the rebels were caught by surprise.
It was also one of the occasions when the political leadership of the day led by PM Rajiv Gandhi gave a free hand to the Indian armed forces, rarely seen during military operations in India.
Indian troops took control of Male
Indian troops conducted house-to-house operations to capture the rebels as they took control the capital Male.
After rescuing president Gayoom who had a quick chat with the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, Indian paratroopers captured several rebels with arms and ammunition.
The 44th Squadron of the Indian Air Force was applauded worldwide for its air operation. India's IL-76 aircraft swiftly landed at Male airport which was a hazardous attempt with the air filed under enemy control.
INS Betwa captured rebels
India was active on the seas as well as troops in INS Godavari and INS Betwa captured the rebels.
The rebels were completely overtaken by India’s swift response in an integrated Indian operation on land and at sea.
A Maldivian businessman living in Sri Lanka Abdullah Luthufi was found guilty of being the mastermind behind the coup.
Reports said at least 500 rebels had taken control of the island nation which was freed by Indian commandos.
Operation Cactus launched
India launched Operation Cactus sending elite paratroopers to Maldives to quell the coup.
The Indian paratroopers rolled over to Male airport and within 24 to 48 hours not only located and rescued president Gayoom but took control of all important government buildings including the radio station, airport and other important posts which were captured by the rebels.
An Indian rescue mission
Former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is no stranger to military coups.
Cut to 3rd November 1988, Tamil orgnization with links to LTTE staged a coup to overthrow the Gayoom government
India played a pivitol role in bringing the coup to an end with the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government sending troops to the Maldives.
After the coup was crushed, India's then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi told Parliament: "The attempt to spread terror and undermine peace and stability in our region has been frustrated."
It was an Indian rescue mission which was carried out with clinical precision with no casualties reported.