Maldives new president Solih assures Modi

Maldives new president Solih assures Modi

Promises that the Indian Ocean island nation's engagement with China would no longer cause a security concern for India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Maldives new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in Male, Maldives, on Saturday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attended the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives' new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Solih has promised that the Indian Ocean island nation's engagement with China would no longer cause a security concern for India.

Modi and Solih had a meeting shortly after the latter was administered the oath of office in Male.

According to a joint press statement issued by the governments of India and Maldives, the two 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 new Maldives president also sought India's support to come out of China's debt-trap.

He requested Prime Minister Modi for support to build infrastructure in the outlying islands of the archipelago.

Solih replaced his predecessor Abdulla Yameen, who had led Maldives closer to China and soured its relations with India during his five-year tenure at the helm of the government of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Modi and Solih on Saturday noted the resilience of the bilateral relations between the two neighbours and expressed “confidence in the renewal of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship”.

Solih shared with Modi his concerns about the “dire economic situation” in his country.

Yameen left Maldives in an estimated $3 billion debt-trap as his government in the past few years awarded the state-owned companies of China contracts to build several infrastructure projects in the island nation, reportedly on unsustainable loan terms.

Modi and Solih discussed ways in which India could continue development partnership, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives.

“In particular,” according to the joint statement, Solih highlighted the pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development as well as for establishing water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands”.

Modi assured Solih of India’s firm commitment in assisting 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 the details as per Maldives' requirements.

Prime Minister Modi welcomed the expanding opportunities for Indian companies to invest in Maldives in different sectors “for the mutual benefit of both countries”.

The two leaders agreed on the need for facilitating easier visa procedures.

They expressed “unwavering commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism both within the region and elsewhere”.

Modi invited Solih to visit New Delhi. The Foreign Minister of the new government of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, will visit New Delhi on November 26 to set the stage for the state visit of the new president of the island nation to India.

Solih also invited Modi for more state visits to Maldives.

India was the only country Solih mentioned about in the speech he delivered after taking the presidential oath.

He made a special gesture to New Delhi by holding the meeting with Prime Minister Modi, shortly after taking oath in Male.

India was the only country which Maldives extended invitations to attend the swearing-in ceremony at the head of state or government level.

This was the first time Modi attended the swearing-in ceremony of a head of state and head of government of a foreign nation.

He, himself, had invited all the leaders of south Asian nations to New Delhi in May 2014 to take part in his swearing-in ceremony.

Prime Minister Modi returned from Male to New Delhi later in the evening.