In his first visit to Maldives as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will travel to Male on November 17 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of new Maldivian president, indicating an attempt to mend bilateral ties, which nosedived under the outgoing Abdulla Yameen government.
Announcing Modi’s daylong visit, Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the PM has accepted president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s invitation to attend the ceremony. Kumar, however, made it clear that it is not a “bilateral visit”. “In keeping with its neighbourhood first policy, India looks forward to closely working with 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, including 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 this year. India had criticised his decision and asked 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 held in Maldives on September 23 in which joint opposition leader Solih defeated Yameen. Modi, who had not visited Maldives so far after his visit got cancelled in March 2015 due to the volatile political situation, will have a bilateral meeting the new President and some other leaders. Maldives is the only SAARC country he has not visited so far.