The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on November 17, signalling New Delhi’s attempt to reset ties with Male. This will be Modi’s first visit to the Maldives after assuming office. In March 2015, his visit was cancelled owing to the volatile political situation in that country.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony on November 17,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. PM’s official advance teams have already reached Male to begin preparations for his visit. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to take place at the national stadium in Male.
Solih had invited Modi to his swearing-in on September 24 after the PM had called him to congratulate on his victory. During the telephonic conversation, Modi conveyed his good wishes for the strengthening of democracy, peace and prosperity in the country. Solih said the two leaders agreed to work closely together to further strengthen the close, friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.
Modi’s acceptance of the invitation shows that India is willing to reverse the strain the relations that had crept in under the outgoing administration of President Abdulla Yameen, who was seen cosying up to China. A string of decisions by Yameen – asking India to take back two of its Army choppers, placing curbs on work visas for Indians and signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing – saw relations nosedive further.
The imposition of emergency in the Maldives added to India’s concerns and New Delhi expressed “deep dismay” about the state of affairs. Solih, who is from the Maldivian Democratic Party, has also indicated after his victory that he vouched for a fresh start on bilateral ties.
The return of former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose 13-year jail sentence was suspended by the Supreme Court and who is considered a pro-India leader, is also being seen as a step in resurrecting ties with its South Asian neighbour.