Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the Maldives to attend the inauguration of its new President Mohamed Solih on 17 November, it is learnt.
This will be the first visit by Modi to the Indian Ocean archipelago where China is gradually increasing its footprints, posing a challenge to India’s economic and strategic interests.
An advance team from the Indian government is in the Maldives to review the security arrangements being made for Modi’s visit to the country. An official announcement about the visit is likely to be made soon. Indications are that Modi’s visit to the Maldives could be clubbed with his trip to Singapore for the India-ASEAN Summit.
Sources said the opposition coalition in the Maldives, which won the presidential election, was quite keen on Modi’s presence at inauguration of the new leader of the country. Solih is set to take the oath of office after stunning incumbent pro-China President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
The Maldives is the only South Asian neighbour of India that Modi has not visited since taking office in 2014. He dropped the Maldives from a 2015 tour of Indian Ocean countries because of the political situation there with massive anti-government protests and heightened tension that led to the arrest and prosecution of former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Bilateral ties between India and the Maldives deteriorated after Yameen in February declared a state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticised trials.