Rock, paper, scissors. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pictured with US President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. Photo: dpa
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have come closer together on China policy. Photo: AFP/DPA

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke by phone on Thursday, with an unfolding political crisis in Maldives on top of their agenda.

The president of the Indian Ocean nation, Abdulla Yameen, declared a 15-day state of emergency after his refusal to comply with a Supreme Court decision last week to free political opposition leaders. The showdown escalated this week when Supreme Court judges and other political opponents were arrested.

While there is support among some circles in New Delhi for sending troops to the island, Modi’s administration has not made any decision to intervene with force.

As envoys for the Yameen administration have been sent to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the US joined India in condemning the political crackdown.

“President Yameen has systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, [and] deprived elected members of Parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature,” a statement from the US State Department said.

While the crisis in Maldives “seemed to be the point of the call” on Thursday, according to the Hindustan Times, little on the issue was included in the readout, except that the two leaders “expressed concern.”

Trump and Modi also discussed Afghanistan, a country at the center of India’s rivalry with Pakistan, where New Delhi has recently increased foreign aid. The US has stepped up operations there in recent days, after Washington’s decision early this year to cut aid to Pakistan.

During the phone call, the two leaders made a point of pledging “to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the White House readout. The term “Indo-Pacific,” now used by the US as an alternative to Asia-Pacific, is seen as an attempt to increase India’s clout as a counterbalance to China’s regional influence.

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