The Republic of Maldives president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be sworn in as the nation’s only 7th president in Male City, since it became a republic in 1953. His swearing in is hailed as the end of the so-called “Maldives Crisis” created by the outgoing president, Abdulla Yameen.
India has also announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Male City to attend Solih’s swearing-in ceremony, another indication of the end of the crisis and an attempt to mend bilateral ties between the two countries that spiralled down during the Yameen government.
Still, although PM Modi has accepted the invitation of president-elect Solih’s invitation to the ceremony in order to mend ties, Modi has made it clear that his attendance “is not a bilateral visit.” However, it is a step in that direction “in keeping with its neighbourhood first policy as India looks forward to work closely with Maldives in further deepening the partnership.”
Ties between India and Maldives became strained under the presidency of Abdullah Yameen who preferred close ties with China. Some decisions by Yameen in the past such as the signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing and imposing restrictions on work visas for Indians did not sit well with the government of New Delhi. Relationships deteriorated further when Yameen imposed a 45 day “emergency” in February this year in order to arrest “political dissidents.”
Presidential elections in the Maldives were held on September 23, with Yameen being defeated by the joint opposition led by leader Ibrahim Solih. People are seeing Solih’s victory as a capping of the political upheaval and a return of the tourist paradise’s focus on the country’s number one economy: Tourism. Solih has in fact promised to increase marketing and infrastructure for tourism in order to attract more visitors to the islands especially during the winter months in other countries.
Aside from being the most beautiful tourist holiday getaway in Asia, if not the world, the Maldives is an important country for India’s maritime security especially in the Indian Ocean.