Prime Minister Narendra Modi and new Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (Source: Official Twitter handle of Narendra Modi)

Solih Sworn In, Modi Says Looking Forward To Strengthen Ties With Maldives

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India is looking forward to working closely with new Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to strengthen bilateral relations with the strategic Indian Ocean island nation.

Prime Minister Modi held talks with Solih after attending his swearing-in ceremony. The two leaders, while noting the resilience of the relations between India and the Maldives, expressed confidence in the renewal of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship with the election of Solih as the President of the Maldives.

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.

Solih, 54, the Maldivian Democratic Party's candidate, had surprisingly defeated strongman Abdulla Yameen in the election held on Sept. 23.

During the swearing-in ceremony of Solih, Modi was sitting beside former Maldivian presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga also attended the ceremony.

Modi congratulated President Solih and also interacted with leaders from the Maldives and other parts of the world during the oath taking ceremony at the National Stadium.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that President Solih in his address to the People's Majlis (Parliament) asserted that the Maldives will endeavour to fortify its existing ties with India.

On arrival in the Maldivian capital, Prime Minister Modi was given a red carpet welcome and was received by Maldives Parliament's new Speaker Qasim Ibrahim. This is Modi’s first visit to the Maldives as prime minister. The last visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the Indian Ocean island nation was by Manmohan Singh in 2011.

“The visit reflects India's commitment to assist the Government & people of Maldives in their endeavour to build a peaceful, democratic & prosperous country,” Kumar tweeted.

Ahead of the visit, Modi had tweeted, “I will convey to the new Maldivian Government of Mr Solih the desire of the Indian Government to work closely for realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity & human resource development.” He said the 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,” the prime minister had said.

The Maldives is the only South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation SAARC country that Modi has not visited. His visit to the Maldives, a strategically vital island and a popular tourist destination, was cancelled in March 2015 due to the volatile political situation then.

India-Maldives ties 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.

Relations between India and the Maldives 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.