Solih sworn in as Maldives president, replacing pro-China leader


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attended the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a step which is seen as an attempt to mend bilateral ties which nosedived under the outgoing Abdulla Yameen government.

Solih, a 54-year-old veteran lawmaker, had already promised an "India first" policy as he works to restructure debt brought on by Yameen's close embrace of China.

In a Facebook post before his departure, Modi offered congratulations and said, "I will convey to the new Maldivian government of Mr Solih the desire of my government to work closely for the realisation of developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, healthcare, connectivity and human resource development".

Solih's triumph in the Maldives contrasts with political turmoil in Sri Lanka, where the president last month tried to fire his prime minister and appoint the country's former pro-China strongman leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. He said, India strongly desires to see a stable, democratic, prosperous and peaceful Republic of Maldives.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Maldives President Solih held a meeting with PM Modi.

In her letter, Mdm Halimah wished Solih continued good health, and every success in his new appointment.

On his maiden visit to the Maldives, Modi landed at the Velana International Airport on an Air India flight around 4pm. Mr Modi said, the elections represent the collective aspirations of the people for democracy, rule of law and a prosperous future.

Both neighbouring India and Western nations watched with concern as Yameen moved closer to Beijing which loaned the strategically placed archipelago millions of dollars for infrastructure. India, the US, Japan and Australia then previous year revived a quad they had formed to work for peace and prosperity in the region.

According to the joint statement, Modi thanked Solih for the special gesture of inviting him to the inauguration ceremony.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will take oaths as the new President tomorrow at a ceremony which will also be attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"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". An ongoing constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka is also said to be linked to India and China's tussle over expansion of their influence in the Indian Ocean region.

The Maldives foreign ministry said China's culture minister Luo Shugang was also an invitee.