PM Modi attends swearing in ceremony of Maldives new President

PM Narendra Modi is travelling to Maldives for the swearing-in of its new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attended the swearing-in ceremony of new Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, following which both countries agreed to renew their close ties and keep each other's "concerns and aspirations" in mind.

By Archana Chaudhary and Iain MarlowPrime Minister Narendra Modi will make his first-ever visit to the tropical island nation of Maldives for the swearing-in of its new president amid ongoing rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing for influence in the Indian Ocean.

Solih's triumph in the Maldives contrasts with political turmoil in Sri Lanka, where the president has tried to unilaterally sack his prime minister and appoint the country's former pro-China strongman leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. India, the US, Japan and Australia then past year revived a quad they had formed to work for peace and prosperity in the region.

Solih emerged as common opposition candidate as all key dissidents were either jailed or forced into exile by Yameen who took power following a controversial run-off in 2013. "Maldives will hereupon bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace and harmony of the Indian Ocean". He is due to meet President Solih before departing Saturday night.

The Maldives is the only South Asian neighbour that Modi has not visited since taking office in 2014. Mr Modi said, the elections represent the collective aspirations of the people for democracy, rule of law and a prosperous future.

PM Modi had also said that he will convey to Solih his wish to work with the new Maldives government in different areas to boost ties.

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"The two leaders discussed ways in which India can continue development partnership, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives".

The statement said Solih highlighted the "pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development" and for establishing water and sewerage systems in outlying islands of the archipelago with a population of about 450,000.

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

Solih's transition team said it had been told the country owed $1.5bn to Chinese lenders but feared it could be much higher.

During a recent visit to Colombo in the middle of his election campaign, Solih told reporters that he wanted to fix ties with immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and India.

Under Yameen, the Maldives, like several other countries in the region, had come under a debt trap under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure push.

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