Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attended the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a step which is seen as an attempt to mend bilateral ties which nosedived under the outgoing Abdulla Yameen government. This is Modi’s first visit to the country as Prime Minister.
Stating that India is working closely to strengthen bilateral relations with the strategic Indian Ocean island nation, PM Modi tweeted, “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 also held talks with Solih after the ceremony. During their meeting, 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.
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. pic.twitter.com/HryxQQMadt
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 17, 2018
On arrival in the Maldivian capital, the PM was given a red carpet welcome and was received by Maldives Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed. During the function, Modi was sitting beside former Maldivian presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Modi also interacted with leaders from the Maldives and other parts of the world.
Former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga also attended the ceremony. Thousands of people cheered Solih, from the Maldivian Democratic Party, at the ceremony in a soccer stadium chosen to accommodate a large number of his supporters.
On Friday, PM Modi took to Twitter to inform that he will be attending the inauguration ceremony of Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. “I will be in Malé tomorrow to attend the historic Inauguration Ceremony of the President-elect H.E. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. I warmly congratulate him on his victory in the recent elections and wish him the very best for his tenure,” he said.
Expressing his desire to see a stable and democratic government in Male, the PM had earlier said, “Recent elections in The Maldives represent the collective aspirations of the people for democracy, rule of law and a prosperous future. We in India strongly desire to see a stable, democratic, prosperous and peaceful Republic of Maldives.”
“India and The Maldives share a strong partnership rooted in history, strong bonds between our peoples, and their shared aspiration for peace and prosperity. My Government’s vision of inclusive development ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’ extends to all our neighbours too,” he added.
PM Modi had also said that he will convey to Solih his wish to work with the new Maldives government in different areas to boost ties. “I will convey to the new Maldivian Government of Mr. Solih the desire of the Indian Government to work closely for the realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity & human resource development,” he said, adding that he is confident that his visit will herald a new era of even closer exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) November 17, 2018
PM Modi had recently accepted the invitation extended by Solih to attend his swearing-in ceremony. Announcing Modi’s daylong visit last week, Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said the PM has accepted president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s invitation to attend the ceremony. He, however, made it clear that it is not a “bilateral visit”.
Ties between India and the Maldives came under strain under Yameen who was perceived to be close to China. Some decisions by Yameen, including the 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.
The Presidential elections in Male were held on September 23 in which joint opposition leader Solih defeated Yameen.