India ‘advance team’ in Maldives ahead of Modi's visit

An advance team from the Indian government is in the Maldives to discuss the country's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's presidential inauguration, according to India media reports.

India' online newspaper 'The Wire' quoted India government sources saying that a team from the Indian government reached the Maldives on Monday to lay the ground work for Modi to witness the inauguration of Solih’s presidential term on November 17.

However, the Indian government is yet to officially confirm Modi's visit to the archipelago.

The opposition coalition meanwhile had said it was working diplomatic channels to get foreign dignitaries including Modi to attend the presidential inauguration.

"As you know, we were only able to confirm the swearing in date quite recently. So we're working through diplomatic channels to get Modi to attend the ceremony," Solih's spokesperson Mariya Ahmed Didi had said earlier this week.

After intense debate over the swearing in date, Solih is set to take the oath of office on November 17 after stunning incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in September's presidential elections.

Maldives remains the only South Asian neighbour that Modi has not visited since taking office in 2014.

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.

Bilateral ties between the two countries had soured after Yameen in February declared state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticised trials.

India has also been irked by Yameen's government had turned to China to realize his ambitious infrastructure development plans. Beijing has provided loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.

Concerns that Maldives would fall into a debt trap like Sri Lanka were further fueled after the island nation signed its first bilateral free trade agreement with China late last year.