Male: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who won the presidential elections in the Maldives after defeating pro-China former President Abdulla Yameen, was sworn in as the President of the island nation. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the event. The presence of the Indian Prime Minister indicates a shift in the Maldivian policy from being pro-China, towards democracy and India, once again. It is one of the significant jolts for China in recent times.
After assuming the office, President Abdulla Yameen had initiated steps to end the democracy in the Maldives. Yameen took vengeful political actions against the opposition leaders and also placed the judges under house arrest. Strong reactions had emanated from the people of the Maldives against these decisions then. A few leaders even went on to make a fervent plea to India for a military intervention to save the Maldivian democracy. However, China had strongly warned India against military inventions in the Maldives stating that the matter was part of the archipelago’s internal affairs. The then President Abdulla Yameen is believed to have strong backing from China.
Yameen had assumed power in the Maldives solely due to China’s backing. Ambitious Chinese projects were given a go-ahead during his tenure. Also, the Maldives had decided to freeze its traditional military ties with India. Elections were, therefore, held in the month of September in the archipelago and Ibrahim Mohammed Solih defeated Yameen by a considerable margin. Solih’s victory became possible as the democratic parties unitedly stood behind him. Following his win, India, the United States and the major countries in the world had reacted in a manner which demonstrated the reinstatement of democracy in the Maldives.
On Saturday, President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony concluded in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Prime Minister Modi had posted his good wishes for the Maldivian people on the social media before embarking on the visit. The Indian Prime Minister assured that India would assist the new government for making developments in the infrastructural facilities, health services and human resources.
Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to meet the new Maldivian President and hold bilateral talks as well. Thus, the Indian PM’s visit is proving to be of great political and strategic importance. China had backed President Yameen with its might to dominate the Maldives, strategically located in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Moreover, China was planning to use the archipelago against India, thereby ending India’s natural influence in the region. Also, Beijing was well aware of the fact that it would not succeed in its objective unless the Maldivian democracy ceased to exist.
China had thus conspired to finish the democracy using Yameen. It has made similar attempts in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Malaysia in the past, to rock India’s security and interests. However, the Chinese plot has boomeranged in the Maldives, and the election of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the President is considered to be a major blow for the Chinese ambitions.
China had said that the natural Indian influence over South Asia and especially in the Indian Ocean Region was a challenge for it. It believes the Indian Navy could stop the freight movement in the region. However, more specifically, China is concerned that India might stop its oil transport passing through the narrow Strait of Malacca. Therefore, China is well aware that it cannot take an aggressive stance against India beyond a certain level. For this reason, China consistently keeps challenging India in the IOR.
The Chinese attempts have backlashed for now and have also earned the country a bad reputation for supporting the anti-democratic leaders and powers while India is strongly emerging as a trusted friend among the South Asian countries.