The sparsely populated but ultra-strategic Islamic island chain of the Maldives has emerged as a flashpoint in the growing rivalry between India and China for influence in South Asia. President Yameen declared a state of emergency earlier this month after the Supreme Court unexpectedly ordered that some jailed opposition members be released and that parliamentary defectors from the pro-government camp be allowed to function as opposition members like they wanted. Had this abrupt announcement entered into legal force, then the opposition would have had enough parliamentary support to initiate impeachment proceedings against the country's incumbent leader, and former President Nasheed — who's in self-imposed exile abroad in order to avoid what he claims are politically motivated terrorism charges — could have returned to his homeland and likely ruled.
President Yameen interpreted these fast-moving and unforeseen events as a coup attempt and promptly ordered the military to maintain order while the conspirators were arrested, though this instantly drew condemnation from the US and its Indian ally who have harshly criticized the country for what they term to be its undemocratic measures during this time. In and of itself, a political crisis such as this one in a country of less than half a million people wouldn't usually draw global headlines, but in this case the state in question is strategically located astride the world's most important shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and has contributed the world's highest per-capita number of recruits to Daesh by some reports.
Furthermore, this archipelago nation recently signed a free trade agreement with China, India's "fellow" BRICS member but also regional rival, and this move allegedly sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi where decision makers feared that Beijing was establishing too much influence on their country's southern doorstep. It's for this reason why a brief moment of brinksmanship occurred between the two Asian Great Powers when former President Nasheed asked for India to intervene in the Maldives Crisis, which prompted the communist party-backed "Global Times" information outlet to issue a stinging rebuke declaring that China wouldn't "sit idly by" if India invaded and would definitely "take action". This warning seems to have de-escalated the threat of foreign intervention for now, but the crisis is still continuing as President Yameen recently announced that he will be extending the state of emergency by 30 days.
Saikat Bhattacharyya, Research scholar in economics at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, and Abdul Ghani, Citizen of the Maldives, joined our discussion.
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