Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured all possible help to new Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in fulfilling his government’s pledges to the people and suggested an early meeting of officials to work out the details according to the needs of the strategically vital Indian Ocean island nation.
According to a joint press statement after talks between Prime Minister Modi and President Solih here on Saturday, soon after the 54-year-old Maldivian Democratic Party leader was sworn-in as the seventh president, the two leaders expressed confidence in the “renewal” of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship between the two countries.
India-Maldives ties came under strain under former president Abdulla Yameen who was perceived to be close to China. Some of his decisions, including the 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.
In his inaugural address, President Solih made it clear that he will endeavour to “fortify” the existing ties the Maldives has had with India and other regional countries.
“The Maldives will hereupon bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace and harmony of the Indian Ocean,” he said.
In the joint press statement, both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region.
The statement noted that President Solih briefed Prime Minister Modi on the “dire economic situation” facing the country as he assumed charge.
In his speech, Solih said that he was taking on the presidency at a time when the country is in a precarious financial situation.
“The treasury has endured a colossal blow owing to reckless mega development projects undertaken purely for political gain. Large-scale embezzlement and corruption has dwindled the coffers of the state by billions of rufiyaa,” he said.
The press statement said that Prime Minister Modi and President Solih discussed ways in which India can continue development partnership, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives.
“In particular, President Solih highlighted the pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development as well as for establishing water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands,” the statement said.
Prime Minister Modi assured President Solih of India’s firm commitment in assisting the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development. He also conveyed India’s readiness to extend help in every possible way and suggested that both sides should meet at the earliest to work out details as per requirements of the Maldives, the statement said.
Prime Minister Modi also welcomed the expanding opportunities for Indian companies to invest in the Maldives in different sectors for the mutual benefit of both countries.
Recognising that nationals of both countries travel extensively between the two countries, the leaders also agreed on the need for facilitating easier visa procedures, the statement said.
The two leaders also expressed their commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism both within the region and elsewhere, it said.
Prime Minister Modi, who was the highest-ranking foreign leader at the swearing-in ceremony, said he had “productive discussions” with President Solih.
“Congratulations to Mr@ibusolih on taking oath as the President of the Maldives. Wishing him the very best for his tenure ahead. Looking forward to working with him to strengthen bilateral relations between our nations,” Modi tweeted before returning to New Delhi.