Maldives likely to be PM’s first foreign visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is most likely to visit Maldives early next month as his first foreign visit after return to power in recent Lok Sabha elections. Maldivies diplomatic sources revealed that PM Modi is likely to visit Maldives towards the end of the first week of June. PM Modi had visited Bhutan in 2014 as his first foreign destination as Prime Minister.

The choice of Maldives —India’s tiny south-western maritime neighbour — is significant as it was, till last year, perceived to be totally under Chinese influence. The Maldivian media has reported that the visit could take place on June 7-8. Sources said the likely visit would be part of India’s  neighbourhood-first policy and that the tiny archipelago nation is strategically important for India.

Under Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, India and the Maldives are now the closest of friends once again. PM Modi had on November 17 last year attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih. The Maldivian President has strengthened ties with New Delhi and reversed the widely perceived slant towards Beijing that the Maldives had adopted during the controversial tenure of his predecessor Abdullah Yameen.

President Solih’s assuming of office following his victory in the Presidential polls against then president Abdulla Yameen last year had come as a huge relief for New Delhi.  Yameen was openly pro-China and had become a thorn in New Delhi’s flesh, with Indo-Maldivian ties having nose-dived during Mr. Yameen’s tenure.

India had earlier decided to give immediate assistance of US$ 25 million to the Maldives to ensure budgetary stability of its tiny maritime south-western neighbour. Meanwhile, the MEA on Sunday said former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed called up and congratulated PM Modi on Sunday “on the historic mandate”.

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