India, Maldives break ice, agree on Indian Ocean stability

Looking forward to strengthening bilateral ties, says PM Modi after attending Maldives President’s swearing-in

This will be the first visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Maldives.

New President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has reiterated key pledges, including implementing judicial reform, restoring fundamental rights, recovering stolen assets, and seeking the truth behind unresolved murders and abductions as his priorities in the first 100 days of his administration. He added that pension funds will be provided to the Haj pilgrims. An ongoing constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka is also said to be linked to India and China's tussle over expansion of their influence in the Indian Ocean region. Both leaders had agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful to each other's concerns as well as aspirations.

During a recent visit to Colombo in the middle of his election campaign, Solih told reporters that he wanted to fix ties with immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and India.

Speaking at the ceremony after taking oaths, Solih said that he will strengthen bilateral relations with India and other neighboring countries and will work to ensure stability in the Indian Ocean. Modi walked into a meeting with Solih immediately after the ceremony, while he met Nasheed and Gayoom afterwards as well. He highlighted the critical state of the Maldives' housing, water and infrastructure systems.

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.

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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 details in line with the requirements of the Maldives. We in India strongly desire to see a democratic, prosperous and peaceful Republic of Maldives. He told Modi that his foreign minister would travel to India on 26 November to prepare for his visit to India.

Modi was the highest-ranking visitor at the inauguration ceremony, while China's highest-ranking official in attendance will be Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.

Earlier in the day, Modi was accorded a red carpet welcome on his arrival here with the Speaker of the Maldives Parliament, Qasim Ibrahim, receiving him at the airport. 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.

"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", a joint statement issued following the meeting said.

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