Modi in Maldives: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Maldives on Saturday in his first ever diplomatic overseas visit after assuming the top post. The prime minister was received by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and other eminent dignitaries at Male airport. The agenda of the bilateral meet, that is scheduled to be held on June 8 and 9, is in line with India’s “neighbourhood-first” policy which aims to strengthen security and economic ties with the island nation, said PM Modi ahead of his visit. The PM will also address the parliament of the Maldives, reports said.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will confer the country’s highest civilian award ‘Nishan Izzuddeen’ on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. Modi had visited the Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih in November 2018. Solih is seen as a supporter of cooperation with India, whereas the earlier president Abdulla Yameen pursued closer ties to China. Beijing has made huge investments in the Maldives in recent years. While Chinese infrastructure projects are already underway, India is likely to up its game as one of the Maldives’ largest economic partner in the near future.
President Solih has stated that he will pursue an “India first” policy, hence the time has come for India to reciprocate in the same manner and utilise this opportunity. The country reels under Chinese debt burden which poses a major threat to its economic growth. India shares a special relationship with the Maldives and it could free the country from the Chinese debt trap by providing soft loans or by investing in in the country’s infrastructure.
Two defence-related projects – a coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) will jointly be inaugurated by PM Modi and the Maldivian President. After the Maldives, PM Modi will be visiting Sri Lanka on June 9 where he is expected to discuss a range of issues with Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.