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Trouble in Paradise at Crux of Asian Rivalry

A tiny archipelago in the Indian Ocean is the world's latest geopolitical flashpoint.

In recent years, the Maldives, a tourist paradise of islands and atolls southwest of India, has become a focus for rivalry between India and China.

New Delhi wants to retain its influence across the Indian Ocean region. Beijing, holding out infrastructure promises, is trying to make the Maldives part of its maritime Silk Road — one section of a link that also includes ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Djibouti in East Africa.

This week the Maldives descended into chaos. The Supreme Court ordered President Abdulla Yameen to release political prisoners, prompting him to declare a state of emergency. An exiled former president is waiting in the wings. Some are calling for India to intervene, China says let them sort it out themselves.

Yameen has limited options. He could bow to international pressure, allow the return of Mohamed Nasheed from exile and steer the country toward elections. Or he could push on, using the security forces to stifle dissent. This island country is teetering on the brink -- the question now is whether India and China will exploit the confusion.

An Indian Ocean flashpoint.
Photographer: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/E+

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— With assistance by Caroline Alexander, Kathleen Hunter, and Ben Sills

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