In an interview with Economic Times, Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid described former President Abdulla Yameen’s foreign policy ‘reckless’. Under former President, China emerged as one of the key foreign partner. However, the new President plans to have India as key foreign partner.
Abdulla Shahid added that President Solih will “prioritise the Maldives’ traditional relationship with India”. Prime Minister Modi had attended President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony on 17th November signalling improvisation of ties between the two countries. India-Maldives relations were strained under former President Abdulla Yameen’s rule who was perceived to be close to China. Yameen had also imposed work visa restrictions and signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China which did not go down well with India.
Things went further south when Yameen imposed emergency in the Maldives in February this year which lasted for 45 days. India was critical of the move. As reported by Economic Times, Maldives’ Foreign Minister said Prime Minister Modi’s presence at President Solih’s swearing-in signals the latter’s keenness on restoring friendship.
Shahid also added that Male will prioritise visa issues to Indian nationals. Yameen government had instructed the immigration department to delay or even deny work visa to Indian nationals. The Indian naval helicopters, which Yameen government had asked to be removed, will also not be removed.
Male Foreign Minister is expected to visit India on 26th November to work on improving bilateral relations. It is also believed that Male is contemplating pulling out of the FTA with China owing to trade imbalance with the giant.
Meanwhile, Maldives has decided to rejoin the Commonwealth, two years after withdrawing from the 53-nation group. The country had left the Commonwealth in 2016 after pressure mounted over charges of corruption and deteriorating human rights.