Published: Sun, November 18, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Modi's maiden Maldives trip signals support for Solih government

Modi's maiden Maldives trip signals support for Solih government

Solih, a veteran lawmaker, won the presidential election in September as a joint opposition candidate against president Abdullah Yameen, a strongman who steered the country closer to China and faced worldwide pressure over imprisoning political rivals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the oath-taking ceremony of Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mahmood Solih on Saturday in Male.

Noting that President Solih briefed PM Modi on the dire economic situation the country is now in, the President's Office detailed discussion held about ways in which the neighboring country can continue to development partnership with the Maldives particularly to help Solih's government to fulfill its pledges to the citizens, with President Solih having highlighted the pressing need for an increase of housing and infrastructure development, more over for the establishment of water and sewerage systems in outlying atolls.

On the economic front, Solih briefed PM Modi on the dire economic situation in the country, and the two discussed ways in which India can continue the development partnership.

India was the only country invited at the Head of State/Government level.

Mr Solih won the Presidential elections held in September defeating incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. Mr Yameen was openly pro-China and had become a thorn in New Delhi's flesh, with Indo-Maldivian ties having nose-dived during Mr. Yameen's tenure.

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PM Modi had also said that he will convey to Solih his wish to work with the new Maldives government in different areas to boost ties.

Modi sat at the ceremony flanked by the two key leaders of the new ruling coalition - former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed - and his presence reflected the end of years of icy relations because of former president Abdulla Yameen's tilt towards China. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was the last Indian PM to visit the island nation in November 2011.

Modi's decision to travel to Male is a sign that India will be a more proactive neighbour to Maldives, and support Solih so as to enable him to govern more independently. Modi interacted with leaders from the Maldives and other parts of the world during the oath taking ceremony.

Mahinda Rajapakse, Sri Lanka's prime minister when Colombo took out the loans, is looking to return to power in the severe current political crisis gripping the island nation. Announcing Modi's daylong visit last week, Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said the PM has accepted president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's invitation to attend the ceremony. Solih (54) was decided as a common opposition candidate and in a shock verdict, defeated Yameen. PM @narendramodi begins a historic visit to The Maldives. India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners.

Former President Yameen was seen as anti-India and pro-China while new President Solih is perceived to be pro-India.

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