Neighbourhood first policy: Narendra Modi to attend swearing in of Maldives President next week

Narendra Modi

In line with “Neighbourhood First Policy” Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Male for oath taking ceremony of Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on November 17. This was announced by the MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar during his weekly briefing.

The president-elect had extended the invitation during a phone call by Modi, soon after Solih’s victory in the September 23 presidential elections after he defeated the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s candidate, emerged victorious over President Abdulla Yameen.

The leader of Maldives has also accepted Modi’s invitation to visit India. Maldives is the only SAARC country that Modi has not visited. His visit to the archipelago was cancelled in March 2015 due to the volatile political situation.

In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, “India looks forward to working closely with Maldives in further deepening our partnership,” an official statement released by the MEA soon after the results were announced had stated.

As reported earlier, the ties with Maldives were strained after President Yameen had declared emergency in the country on Feb 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India had criticised the Yameen government for the imposition of the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.

In July, India expressed concern over announcement of the presidential election without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner.

Experts had through their comments to FE Online urged India not to be complacent and had pointed out that the European Union countries and the US will be raising their stakes in the Indian Ocean country.

The country is of strategic importance to New Delhi, besides being home to around 22,000 Indians. It has more than 1,000 coral islands and atolls which are covering a huge maritime area stretching 750 Kms from the north to the south.

Sharing his views with FE Online, Rajeev Shahare, former ambassador to Maldives who has known ‘Ibu’ Soleh said that Maldives couldn’t have elected a better consensus leader who enjoys broad acceptance cutting across party lines.

According to him, this change will augur well for India-Maldives bilateral ties too.

“Besides the historical ties the two countries have, India will look forward to President Solih reversing the dangerous past practices of selling off atolls for pecuniary benefits, avoiding militarization of its islands and halting the spread of radicalism,” according to former secretary MEA, Anil Wadhwa.

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Source: Financial Express