Published: Sun, November 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

New Maldives President Ibrahim Solih promises to strengthen ties with India

New Maldives President Ibrahim Solih promises to strengthen ties with India

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was inaugurated today as the new president of the Maldives after the opposition united to dislodge pro-China strongman leader Abdulla Yameen in September elections. However, Mohamed Nasheed has promised his party would reduce reliance on China and renegotiate millions of dollars in loans taken from Beijing.

In a Facebook post before his departure, Modi offered congratulations and said, "I will convey to the new Maldivian government of Mr Solih the desire of my government to work closely for the realisation of developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, healthcare, connectivity and human resource development". He dropped the Maldives from a 2015 tour of Indian Ocean countries because of the political situation there with massive anti-government protests and heightened tension that led to the arrest and prosecution of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Solih, a veteran politician, won the presidential election in September against the former president Abdulla Yameen, a strongman who steered the country closer to China and faced worldwide pressure over imprisoning political rivals.

On his maiden visit to the Maldives, Modi landed at the Velana International Airport on an Air India flight around 4pm.

In her letter, Mdm Halimah wished Solih continued good health, and every success in his new appointment.

A joint statement was also released which noted the "resilience of relations between India and the Maldives", and both leaders "expressed confidence in the renewal of close bonds of cooperation and friendship with the election of Mr Solih as President of the Maldives". We in India strongly desire to see a democratic, prosperous and peaceful Republic of Maldives.

"Recent elections in the Maldives represent the collective aspirations of the people for democracy, rule of law and a prosperous future".

Outgoing Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, 59, had been expected to romp home in the September 23 elections, with opposition leaders jailed or exiled, and warnings that he would try to fix the vote, but in a surprise turn of events, 54-year-old united opposition candidate Mr Solih was declared the victor, sparking celebrations across the tropical holiday destination.

Solih was sworn in at a special ceremony at the National Football Stadium in the capital Male.

By Archana Chaudhary and Iain MarlowPrime Minister Narendra Modi will make his first-ever visit to the tropical island nation of Maldives for the swearing-in of its new president amid ongoing rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing for influence in the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives foreign ministry said China's culture minister Luo Shugang was also an invitee.

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