India has ended weeks of speculation by confirming that its Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend Maldives' president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's presidential inauguration next week.
Solih is set to be sworn in a grand ceremony at the national football stadium in the capital Male on November 17 with over a thousand invitees to witness the inauguration.
Announcing Modi’s daylong visit, Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the PM has accepted Solih’s invitation to attend the ceremony.
Kumar, however, made it clear that it was not a “bilateral visit”.
“In keeping with its neighbourhood first policy, India looks forward to closely working with Maldives in further deepening the partnership,” Kumar said.
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.