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India–Maldives relations improving despite obstacles
Apr 15, 2019

India–Maldives relations under Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih started well. But sustaining the positive momentum will require hard work given complicated domestic politics, external relations and strategic interests.
The bilateral engagement confronted numerous challenges after the first democratically elected government of the Maldives led by Mohamed Nasheed collapsed in 2012. Since then the country’s political instability has challenged overall security of the Indian Ocean by increasing radicalisation —over 200 Maldivians reportedly joined the Islamic State —and by the granting of non-transparent permissions for foreign investment.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi displeased the previous Maldivian government led by Abulla Yameen, in power from 2013 to 2018, by refusing to visit and his government calling for the release of political prisoners and improvements in the rule of law. The Maldives’ refusal to renew a contract of military helicopters gifted by India and trade diversification demonstrates its dissatisfaction.
But bilateral ties improved after the September 2018 elections ended the Abdulla Yameen government. Ibrahim Mohammed Solih, leader of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), was elected President with the support of a coalition. The change of government was welcomed by the international community and generated hopes for an end to corruption, political repression and human rights violations.
The change of government in the Maldives allowed both countries to positively redefine bilateral relationships, as indicated by high level visits. Modi visited the Maldives in September 2018 while Solih made a state visit to India in December 2018. Statements made during the visits underscore the importance of enhancing bilateral relations in trade, energy, security, connectivity, socio-economic developments and cooperation in regional and multilateral forums.