Weeks before newly-elected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s first overseas visit to India on December 17, Maldives Monday recalled its ambassador to New Delhi. Maldives envoy Ahmed Mohamed, who was appointed by former President Abdullah Yameen and is considered to be close to him, gave up his position Monday. The move comes days after the new government led by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took charge.
The decision regarding Solih’s visit to India was taken at a meeting between External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and visiting Maldives Foreign minister Abdulla Shahid Monday. Shahid was accompanied by Finance minister Ibrahim Ameer, Economic Development minister Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Khaleel and Foreign secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed.
After the meeting, Shahid described ties with India as “time-tested” and “traditional”, and said that he assured the Indian government that the new Maldives government values and cherishes its relationship with India.
“Yameen thought he can play India against China, and that he will be a puppet master… We don’t want to play a puppet master… Solih is redirecting Maldives’ relationship towards the region.”
Talking about the Maldives economy, Finance minister Ameer said that the country is facing financial difficulties due to corruption in the last five years. He said that Male welcomes investments especially in the health and tertiary sector.
Economic development minister Ismail said that they wanted to put the last five years of instability behind and are trying to resolve all pending matters for Indian companies doing business in Maldives. “We hope to enter into a bilateral investment protection agreement,” he said.
On the China Free Trade Agreement, Foreign minister Shahid said, “I have asked my officials to review the document.
After the Attorney General reviews the pact, we will be able to make an informed judgement.”
On China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Maldives participation, the new Foreign minister said that Maldives intended to continue their cooperation not just with China, but also other countries. “We want to come out of isolation and engage.”
A statement by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Swaraj reiterated that India attaches “highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity”.
“Shahid reiterated his Government’s ‘India First’ policy and said that his government looks forward to working closely with the government of India… Minister Abdulla also reiterated that the government of Maldives will be sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns,” the MEA statement said.