Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the Air Force Station, Palam, on Sunday. PTI
PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi and visiting Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will discuss — and are likely to agree — on an understanding on financial assistance in order to bail out the economy of the island nation, which is in a “dire situation”, a top government source told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Sources said the two sides have been discussing the economic situation since Modi’s visit to Maldives for Solih’s inauguration ceremony. It was followed up by Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid’s visit, accompanied by Finance and Economic Development Ministers from the country early December.
Sources said the Indian side is likely to help Maldives on the pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development as well as for establishing water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands.
“Maldives is open for business,” announced Solih, within hours of his arrival in India on Sunday. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu told Solih on Sunday that the Indian government stands ready to help.
Solih arrived on a three-day state visit during which he will hold talks with Modi aimed at strengthening bilateral ties. This will be their second meeting in a month — he was sworn in on November 17.
Big step towards better ties, over to Delhi
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s first overseas visit, exactly a month after his swearing-in, bodes well for India, after years of strained ties with former President Abdullah Yameen. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who attended Solih’s inauguration last month, had promised him that India will assist the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development. He had also conveyed India’s readiness to extend help in “every possible way”. As the small island nation looks at Delhi, after being trapped in China’s “debt-for-leverage” trap, all eyes will be on South Block in stepping up and walk the talk.
Solih, who defeated President Abdullah Yameen in polls in September, was received by Union minister Hardeep S Puri.
“Fortifying close bonds of cooperation and friendship. President of #Maldives @ibusolih received by MoS @MoHUA_India @HardeepSPuri on arrival in Delhi — his first foreign visit after assuming office & within a month of visit of PM @narendramodi to Maldives,” Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.
Maldives Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid tweeted, “Honoured to accompany President @ibusolih on his first State Visit to Delhi. A new dawn is rising for #Maldives-#India friendship and cooperation under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.”
Solih, who will hold talks with Modi on Monday after a ceremonial reception, will also meet President Ram Nath Kovind. He will also call on Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Accompanied by his wife Fazna Ahmed, he will visit the Taj Mahal on Tuesday before heading back to Maldives.
Soon after taking charge, Solih had said that he will strengthen bilateral relations with India and other neighbouring countries, and will work to ensure stability of Indian Ocean.
Sources said the two sides will agree on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region. This is aimed at assuaging the concerns stemming out of China’s assertive activities in the Indian Ocean region, as three Chinese naval ships had docked in Male in August last year.
Modi is expected to assure Solih of India’s firm commitment in assisting the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development.
After Modi and Solih had met last month, the two leaders also expressed their “unwavering commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism both within the region and elsewhere”. This commitment is expected to be reiterated on Monday during the bilateral meeting.