Maldives pres meets India's Modi as first order of business

As the first order of business as Maldives' president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih met with visiting India Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

Immediately after taking the oath of office as the country's seventh president, the veteran lawmkaer Solih headed to the president's office in the capital Male to meet Modi which signals the end of years of frosty relations because of Solih's predecessor's embrace of China, a relationship that had deepened India's anxieties about being encircled by countries leaning towards Beijing.

Details of the meeting is yet to emerge but Solih had already hinted at a change in Maldives' foreign policy to move away from China to neighbours India.

Addressing the parliament after being sworn in at the national football stadium in the capital Male on Saturday, the veteran lawmaker in the presence of Modi, Solih insisted that he would be the medium through which Maldives would improve relations with its neighbours.

"We will endeavour to fortify the existing ties the Maldives has had with India and other regional countries. The Maldives will hereupon bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace and harmony of the Indian Ocean," Solih had said.

Maldives was 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.

Maldives has remained strategically key to in the battle between India and China for regional supremacy.

Bilateral ties between India and Maldives had soured after the now defeated Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom 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 criticized trials.

India has also been irked by Yameen's government turning 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.

Modi is scheduled to attend the official banquet on Saturday evening before his departure from the archipelago.