Modi Congratulates Maldives’ New President, Calls for Strong Ties

Earlier, India’s Ministry of External Affairs had congratulated Maldives’ new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

3 min read
Maldives’ opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih casts his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, 24 September, called on Maldives' new President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and congratulated him on his victory in the presidential elections held in Maldives on Sunday, reported ANI.

Modi also conveyed his good wishes for the strengthening of democracy, peace and prosperity in the island nation under the leadership of Solih, who thanked him for his greetings. The two leaders agreed to work together closely to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, it was further reported.

Earlier on Monday, India's Ministry of External Affairs had congratulated Solih and released a statement saying, “We welcome the successful completion of the third Presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won.”

“We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest.”
Ministry of External Affairs

The Ministry in its statement called for deepening country’s partnership and ties with Maldives with a change in leadership. “This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law,” the statement released on Monday said.

“In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership.”
Ministry of External Affairs

Maldives strongman President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom too conceded that he lost election to his challenger Solih, in a speech broadcast live on television on Monday.

Speaking in the Maldives' native language, Dhivehi, Yameen congratulated Solih and said, "I know I have to step down now."

The election commission released provisional results earlier on Monday showing Solih had won the South Asian island nation's third-ever multiparty presidential election with 58.3 percent of the vote. The commission said voter turnout in the country of 400,000 people was 89.2 percent.

Solih, a long-time but little-known lawmaker, declared victory at his party’s campaign headquarters in the capital city Male. The contentious elections had been viewed widely as a referendum on the island nation’s young democracy.

Terming his victory the will of the people, Solih said, “For many of us it has been a difficult journey. A journey that led to a prison cell, or years in exile.”

“It’s been a journey that led to the complete politicisation and breakdown of public institutions. But it’s been a journey that has ended in the ballot box, because the people willed it,” The Hindu reported, quoting Solih.

Supporters draped in the Maldives' flag took to the streets, hugging one another, cheering and honking horns to celebrate Solih's unexpected win.

India's ties with the Maldives came under strain after President Yameen declared Emergency in the country on 5 February, following an order by the country's Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India had criticised the Yameen government for imposing the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners.

The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.

In July, India had expressed concern over the presidential election and urged the Yameen government to allow its democratic institutions, including the Parliament and the judiciary, to function in a free and transparent manner.


Opposition Win Being Seen as Dent to China's Influence

Both India and China, jostling for influence in the Indian Ocean, had been watching the election closely.

The Maldives' economy, historically tied to its famed luxury tourism sector, grew under Yameen, in part due to aid and investment from China. Notably, Yameen has been considered to be backed by China.

Beijing has invested in major projects in Maldives and a free trade agreement also exists between the two countries, reported BBC.

The analysts cited by BBC before the election said that while China favoured incumbency in the Maldives, as it favoured its interests, India rooted for an opposition win.

China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment by AP regarding the election on Monday, a public holiday.

(With inputs from PTI, AP, BBC and The Hindu)

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