The change in Maldives is good, India should now build on this: Experts

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New Delhi | Updated: September 25, 2018 1:50:21 PM

India cannot be complacent merely as an overtly favourable government has returned in neighbouring Maldives say experts and urged the pending visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be expedited.

Maldives, Narendra Modi, multilateral interests, European Union, Indian OceanHoping for a smooth transition and respecting the will of the people, Shahare said, “I have known ‘Ibu’ Soleh; Maldives couldn’t have elected a better consensus leader who enjoys broad acceptance cutting across party lines.”

India cannot be complacent merely as an overtly favourable government has returned in neighbouring Maldives say experts and urged the pending visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be expedited. Since the elections had invoked multilateral interests, according to experts European Union countries and the US will be raising their stakes in the Indian Ocean country.

In the recent years, the country was in news as China was backing Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s infrastructure drive, causing concern to New Delhi. Besides booming China-Maldivian economic relations, the relationship was more strategic in nature during the tenure of Yameen. As reported earlier, the country is of strategic importance to New Delhi, besides being home to around 22,000 Indians. The island nation has more than 1,000 coral islands and atolls which are covering a huge maritime area stretching 750 kilometers from the north to the south.

Sharing his views with FE Online, Rajeev Shahare, former ambassador to Maldives said, “Congratulations to the people of Maldives and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for the victory. It is also a victory of the democratic forces in Maldives.”

Hoping for a smooth transition and respecting the will of the people, Shahare said, “I have known ‘Ibu’ Soleh; Maldives couldn’t have elected a better consensus leader who enjoys broad acceptance cutting across party lines. The change should augur well for India-Maldives bilateral ties too. In this regard, our official statement articulates the intent to engage with the new leadership in further ‘deepening’ of our partnership and build on this change.”

“This election marks not only triumph of democratic forces in Maldives, but also reflects firm commitment to democracy and rule of law. In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, India looks forward to working closely with Maldives in further deepening our partnership,” read the statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi on Monday.

According to former diplomat Ambassador Anil Triguyanat, “It is a favourable development but the Chinese and Saudi influence cannot be wished away due to their financial compulsions and strategic location.”

In his view “India will have to move up the scale for its engagement and assistance which should not appear big- brotherly but mutually beneficial. And, the pending visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be expedited while a high level minister should be present at the swearing in.”

Said former secretary MEA, Anil Wadhwa, “Maldives has voted in the true traditions of democracy and the rule of law has been upheld by the people who have rejected foreign interference and unfair influencing practices. India will now hope to build a solid relationship with president elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and restore its ties to the level of yesteryears based on cordial and pleasant brotherly ties and good neighbourliness.”

According to Wadhwa, “India will look forward to a relationship of openness and trust which will see a fair treatment for its policies and its people in the island nation which has historic ties with India. More importantly it will look forward to President Solih reversing the dangerous past practices of selling off atolls for pecuniary benefits, avoiding militarization of its islands and halting the spread of radicalism.”

According to reports China had undertaken to build a 1.4-kilometer bridge linking Hulhule with Male which was completed on August 30 this year and then inaugurated by Yameen. Both countries (China-Maldives) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Beijing for an ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one of the first countries worldwide to do so in 2014.

The airport extension, island-linking bridge and other infrastructural projects were all part of the BRI plan. The two had also announced plans to build a Joint Ocean Observation Station in Makunudhoo, the westernmost atoll in the north, which according to reports in Times of India at that time had suggested that “the facility would allow Chinese to open a maritime front against India.”

It may be recalled that the political situation in the archipelago had worsened after the Supreme Court of that country had in February this year quashed the convictions of nine opposition figures, among them Nasheed, who was ousted from office in 2012. However, after President Yameen had declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of two judges, the court reversed its decision.

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