In his first visit as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will travel to Male on November 17 to visit the swearing-in ceremony of new Maldivian president-elect, indicating an attempt to mend bilateral ties, which nosedived during the outgoing Abdulla Yameen government.
Announcing Modi’s day-long visit, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar stated the prime minister has accepted president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih invitation to attend the ceremony “with pleasure”. Kumar, however, made it clear that it is not a bilateral visit. “In keeping with its neighborhood first policy, India looks forward to closely operating with the Maldives in further deepening the partnership,” Kumar said.
India-Maldives ties came under strain under Yameen who was perceived to be close to China. Some decisions by Yameen covering imposition of restrictions on work visas for Indians and signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing also did not go down well with New Delhi.
The relations deteriorated further after Yameen imposed emergency on February 5, 2018. India had criticized his decision and questioned his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted for 45 days.
Presidential elections were observed in the Maldives on September 23 in which joint opposition leader Solih defeated Yameen, capping months of political upheaval in the tourist paradise. The Maldives is a major country for India’s maritime security and there have been concerns in India over China’s growing influence over the country in the last few years.