Modi, Solih vows to revive India-Maldives ties

New Maldives president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih met with visiting India Prime Minister Narendra Modi where both leaders expressed confidence in the renewal of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship between the two countries.

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.

The joint statement released by Maldives foreign ministry after the meeting said both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region.

"The two leaders expressed their unwavering commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism, both within the region and elsewhere," the statement read.

According to the statement, president Solih had briefed Prime Minister Modi on the dire economic situation facing the country as he takes office.

"The two leaders discussed ways in which India can continue development partnership, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives. In particular, President Solih highlighted the pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development as well as for establishing water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands," it said.

Prime Minister Modi had assured India’s firm commitment in assisting the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development.

"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 as per requirements of the Maldives."

Prime minister Modi extended an invitation to President Solih to make a State Visit to India at his earliest convenience which was accepted by the new Maldives leader.

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives will make an official visit to India on 26 November 2018, to hold further discussions and to prepare for the forthcoming State Visit of President Solih to India," the statement revealed.

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.