The former leader of the Muslim-majority nation, famed for idyllic beaches but currently under a state of emergency, has requested New Delhi send troops. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision on the matter could ultimately represent how his country intends to lead in a region with rising Chinese influence and extremism.
"If India cannot even safeguard its primary interests so close to its mainland, then it can hardly be trusted to become a net security provider for the wider region," Rumel Dahiya, a retired Indian army brigadier, said in a recent note published by the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Since authoritarian President Abdulla Yameen came to power in 2013, rule of law in the Maldives has steadily deteriorated, but the situation hit a boiling point last week. Tightening his grip on power, Yameen jailed high-ranking members of the judiciary, including Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, as well as former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
That prompted former leader Mohamed Nasheed, widely credited for bringing democracy to the archipelago, to ask India for help. In a Twitter post on Feb. 6, Nasheed requested that New Delhi send an envoy, backed by the Indian military, and called on Washington to halt any transactions through American banks tied to Yameen's regime.