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The Biggest Rivalry You're Not Hearing About

Sometimes the biggest global stories play out in the smallest places. Last week a political crisis in the Maldives, a tiny, idyllic island nation in the Indian Ocean, gave us a glimpse of broader geopolitical tensions between two giants: India and China.


The immediate cause of the current turmoil in the Maldives is a bitter rivalry between the head-cracking current president, Abdallah Yameen, and exiled former president, Mohamed Nasheed, who leads the opposition.

But things took on a global dimension fast when Nasheed called on India to send in troops to restore order and roll back Chinese influence on the islands.

The broader story is that while the Maldives have historically been close to India, President Yameen has tilted the country towards China economically since taking office in 2013, courting infrastructure investment, tourism flows, and signing a free trade deal with Beijing.

As you can imagine, the Indians don't like that, particularly since China is also spending billions on Indian Ocean ports and related infrastructure in neighboring Pakistan (an adversary), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal (all friends).

From China's perspective it's a no-brainer — some two-thirds of the world's oil shipments cross the Indian Ocean, and those waterways are a critical part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. But for India it's a direct challenge to what New Delhi sees as its own historic sphere of influence.

The Indians and Chinese won't get into a real tussle over the Maldives, the islands are too small fry for that. But relations between the two Asian giants are already touchy. They still can't agree on a border more than 50 years after fighting a war over the issue, and they nearly came to blows last summer over a remote mountain road.

Last week's episode is a reminder that as China seeks greater commercial and strategic influence in Asia in the coming years, frictions between the world's two most populous nations — one a democracy, the other an autocracy — are set to grow.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Listen: The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he talks about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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