• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

ASIA

Maldives’ ‘pro-China’ president Muizzu calls first India visit successful

The leader recently visited New Delhi to attend the swearing-in of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and met a number of top leaders including his Indian counterpart and foreign minister.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi speaks with Maldivian president Mohamed Muizzu after his oath-taking ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi, India, on June 9, 2024. (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

MONTHS after his government had a rough dealing with India since he took over the office last November, Maldivian president Mohamed Muizzu had a pleasant meeting with president Droupadi Murmu, prime minister Narendra Modi, external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other dignitaries in New Delhi where he went to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Indian PM on June 9.

Muizzu, who is seen as pro-China, later hailed his visit to India, his first official one, as a major success, saying that he hoped it would lead to strong bilateral ties between the two maritime neighbours.

Muizzu was in India along with a number of leaders from south Asia and Indian Ocean regions to attend the swearing-in of Modi as the PM for the third consecutive time.

Read: Maldives’ Muizzu to attend Modi oath-taking, says report: Resetting ties?

“God willing, the strong ties between the two nations will result in increased prosperity for the Maldives and Maldivians alike,” the 45-year-old Muizzu, who defeated pro-India leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the election last year, told a state-run broadcaster in his country following the visit.

Read: Israel asks its tourists to visit India after Maldives bans entry

The former mayor of Maldives’ capital Male also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to hold high-level talks with Murmu, Modi and Jaishankar, among others.

“This trip has been a success for the Maldives and for the region too,” Muizzu, who was accompanied by a high-level government delegation, said.

Muizzu, who was seen sitting next to Modi during a banquet hosted by the Indian president, expressed his gratitude for the warm hospitality while speaking with Murmu and acknowledged New Delhi’s continuous assistance to the archipelago. Jaishankar, during his meeting with Muizzu, expressed optimism over closer cooperation between the two neighbours in times ahead.

Accompanied by a high-level government delegation, President Muizzu met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday. They discussed various issues and attended a banquet together, where Muizzu was seated beside PM Modi.

In his meeting with President Murmu, the Maldivian leader expressed his gratitude for the warm hospitality and acknowledged India’s continuous assistance to the Maldives. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also met with Muizzu, expressing hope for closer cooperation between the two nations in the future.

The Maldivian president’s visit to India follows that of his foreign minister Moosa Zameer as the two countries try to address their ties that took a nosedive since a change of guard in Male.

While Muizzu sought complete withdrawal of Indian military personnel operating some aviation platforms from the Maldives, posts by some of the country’s former ministerial officials allegedly insulting Modi after he promoted Indian island chains Lakshadweep on X after visiting them created a massive uproar in India with tourists and travel companies boycotting the island-nation which is predominantly dependent on tourism. Muizzu was then touring China, where he went for his first official visit after taking over the reins.

World Bank issues warnings over Maldives’ economy

The Maldivian president’s visit to India also occurs around the same time when the World Bank has issued warnings over the archipelago facing high-distress debt risk and financial challenges, making it vulnerable to shocks.

The international donor highlighted that the Maldives has been spending “beyond its means” for decades, according to Press Trust of India.

World Bank country director for the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, Faris H Hadad-Zervos, also said that the island nation’s annual debt servicing needs are likely to be $512 million for the current and following years, and another $1.07 billion in 2026.

Hadad-Zervos’s statement, posted on his official X account, comes days after the Maldives’ finance ministry said that the public and publicly guaranteed debt is almost 110 per cent of the country’s GDP. The heavily tourism-dependent nation had suffered badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns and started recovering only in 2023.

(With PTI inputs)

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