By Iain Marlow
In recent years, the Maldives, a tourist paradise of islands and atolls southwest of India, has become a focus for a 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.
Merkel gets a deal | More than four months after her election victory, Chancellor Angela Merkel finally has a coalition partner for her fourth term. After negotiating through the night, Merkel renewed her pact with the Social Democrats who’ve backed her since 2013. The deal just needs the endorsement of the SPD’s 464,000 members and the chancellor will be back in business.
Deadline pressure | U.S. Lawmakers are working on a plan aimed at giving Washington a reprieve from government shutdown battles. The two-year budget under negotiation would raise federal spending caps and may attach a still-unspecified increase in the federal debt ceiling. They’re working against a deadline: funding is set to lapse at midnight tomorrow.
All in the family | Top Republicans may end up shielding Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner from facing tough questions on-camera from Democrats eager to press them over their contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. The partisan clash could determine whether any of the congressional Russia probes come to a bipartisan outcome.
Endgame for Zuma | South African President Jacob Zuma is negotiating the terms of the end of his scandal-ridden administration today with Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced him as head of the ruling African National Congress in December. Since then, the rand has been the world’s best-performing currency, and business confidence in Africa’s most industrialized economy has surged to its highest level since October 2015.
New Iron Curtain | Almost three decades after the fall of communism, Poland is becoming increasingly isolated over its nationalist agenda. The U.S. and Israel denounced government-sponsored legislation ratified yesterday criminalizing suggestions that the country was responsible for any role in the Holocaust. But at home, the measure has the support of the far-right.
A grand parade | Trump has asked the Pentagon to pursue plans for a military “celebration” so that “all Americans can show their appreciation” of the country’s service members, according to the White House - a proposal that’s prompted comparisons to grand displays of military dictatorships.
And finally… It was originally on many counts: the first rocket as powerful as the Apollo moon mission vehicles in 45 years, the first sent into earth’s orbit by a private company, and the only time an electric car driven by a space-suited mannequin has been sent into space. The successful launch of the Falcon Heavy opens Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to a market that until now has been ruled only by governments. It also puts Musk a step closer to his dream of colonizing Mars.
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