New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first official overseas trip will be to the tropical island nation of Maldives and the PM is expected to make the visit from 7-8 June. Though there has been no official confirmation from the foreign ministry of both the countries the Maldivian media reported the news.
PM Modi earlier visited the Maldives on a short visit to attend President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s inauguration ceremony in November last year.
Bilateral ties between both the countries were strained when pro-China Abdulla Yameen was in power.
Visit of the newly-elected Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to India last year was seen as a reset of the historic bilateral ties between both the countries.
China’s close relations with the former president Yameen was a diplomatic headache for India and during his term, many Indian companies were snubbed in favour of Chinese companies on many major infrastructure projects. The Yameen government had also asked New Delhi to take back Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) which was a gift from India.
Beijing’s interest in the Maldives is strategic and is based on String of Pearl’s theory with an aim to encircle India by establishing a network of Chinese military and commercial facilities in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
During 1988 Maldives coup d’état, India’s timely military intervention code-named “Operation Cactus” thwarted coup attempt by Maldivian businessman-smuggler Abdullah Luthufi supported by Tamil secessionist organisation People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). Ties between both countries reached a new high after the successful restoration of the Gayoom government.
India and the Maldives share close ties in areas such as economics, military and security and PM Modi’s first visit to the island nation after starting his second term will be seen as a signal to the international community as well as China that India is ready to play a more active role in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) and in its immediate neighbourhood.