Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Maldives president renews India ties




New Maldives president renews India ties

New Maldives president renews India ties

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office as the new Maldives president on Saturday and immediately warned of a “dire” economic crisis as he turned to India for help, signalling an end to the pro-China stance of his predecessor.

Solih, 54, emerged as a common candidate for the opposition that united to oust strongman leader Abdulla Yameen in a September election.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the most high-profile guest at the inauguration and the pair pledged to work together on the problems faced by the nation of small islands and atolls.

Solih briefed Modi “on the dire economic situation facing the country as he takes office”, said a joint statement. He highlighted the critical state of the Maldives’ housing, water and infrastructure systems.

It added that Modi promised “to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives”.

India has been the country’s traditional main ally but Yameen became close to China and the Maldives saw its foreign debt balloon to more than $1.2 billion during his five years in power.

The Solih-Modi statement indicated a reversal of the pro-Beijing policy by the country which relies on tourists visiting its sun-kissed beaches.

“The two leaders, while noting the resilience of the relations between India and the Maldives, expressed confidence in the renewal of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship with the election of Mr Solih as the president of the Maldives,” it said.

Modi watched as Solih was sworn in at a special parliament session held at the National Football Stadium in the capital Male.

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

Leading dissidents and opposition figures were jailed or forced into exile by Yameen, who took power in a controversial 2013 election.

India and Western nations had watched with concern as Yameen also moved closer to Beijing which loaned the strategically placed archipelago hundreds of millions of dollars for roads, bridges and work at the main international airport.

Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has pledged to end what it called “China’s colonialism” and to resist a “land grab” in the country which straddles key East-West shipping routes.

MDP leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed has vowed his party would reduce reliance on China and renegotiate loans taken from Beijing.

More than 80 per cent of the Maldives’ foreign debt is owed to China, he said.

China has also loaned other countries around the Indian Ocean and beyond large amounts of money for infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road initiative.

Sri Lanka last year granted a 99-year lease on the Hambantota deep-sea port to Beijing, after it was unable to repay Chinese loans for the $1.4-billion project.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped