The approach that the Solih Government takes to fine tune with various stakeholders of power, will be an interesting case to watch for.
The Yameen Era undoubtedly has been a curious case from the Indian perspective. It is a well-known fact that ex-President Yameen wanted to develop the Indian Ocean archipelago on the footprints of Singapore
A democratically elected (supposedly pro-India) government in the Maldives, comes as good news for India. It brings a big sigh of relief & is definitely a welcoming turn of an event not only for the Maldives but for India also. A peaceful neighbourhood is what India needs today. Although, the current political stability in the country has not come for free & the Maldives has paid its share of price for attaining the same.
Government declares the state of emergency for 30 days, to counteract mass rally in support of former president Nasheed
Let’s have a look at the turn of events that has rocked the country in past few years.
It all started with the ending of Gayoom Era. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was in power for three decades before being voted out. In October 2008, President Gayoom is defeated by the Leader of Opposition Mohammed Nasheed. Elected through the Presidential system of Government. Mohammed Nasheed swears-in to become the first democratically elected President of Maldives. In March-April 2009, President Nasheed brings -in path-breaking policies to make Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade by switching completely to renewable energy sources. His government also encourages de-regulation of state-controlled media to ensure media freedom. In January 2012, Nasheed government is criticised over the decision of arresting Chief-Justice, who ordered a release of the political critic. Following the row which erupted after the arrest of Chief-Justice & mutiny by the police, President Nasheed, announces his resignation in February 2012. Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, sworn-in as President.
November 2013, in another election run-off, Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of former President Gayoom, wins the election to become next President of Maldives. In March 2015, former President Mohammed Nasheed is jailed for 13 years, on a verdict of terrorism, which his opponents say is politically motivated. In the same month, Government declares the state of emergency for 30 days, to counteract mass rally in support of former president Nasheed. However, under mounting international pressure, Government had to lift the state of emergency. In June 2016, President Yameen orders to put former vice-president Ahmed Adeeb, his most trusted confidante, behind bars for 15 years, in charge of assassinating him. In February 2018, the political turmoil rises, when President Yameen orders the arrest of the Chief Justice & Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, for granting bail to the political prisoners. In September 2018, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the opposition leader, surprisingly wins the election to become the next President of Maldives.
The Solih Government has a daunting task in front of it, where at one side it wants to reframe its ties with China and at the other side, it is trying to improve its relations with India, which has already hit a new low.
The Yameen Era undoubtedly has been a curious case from the Indian perspective. It is a well-known fact that ex-President Yameen wanted to develop the Indian Ocean archipelago on the footprints of Singapore. He had a vision which China & Saudi Arabia could help to realise. The Maldives grew closer to China during his regime. China has made large infrastructural investments in the Maldives, which included building the $1.2 billion Maldives airport, a project which was initially awarded to Indian Company GMR for $500 million. China is also building a 2km long bridge to connect capital city Male to the airport. As per the allegations by the opposition, China is creating naval bases & observational posts in the islands of Maldives. This would open maritime front against India & help in India’s Maritime Encirclement. China also wants to fuel up its project of BRI (Belt & Road Initiative) by investing in the Maldives. These all developments have made the nation debt-ridden by China, which will take years to clear.
A pro-China government in the Maldives & its heavy investment in Infrastructure has brought serious concerns for India. A China-friendly neighbourhood is what India would never want to happen. Hence, the recently concluded President election-results of Maldives has helped to bring down the mercury in North Block of Delhi.
Within hours of his victory, the newly elected President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had a conversation with Indian Prime Minister Modi, confirming that India is Maldives “closest ally”. However, it would be unrealistic to expect the Maldives, to turn hostile to China, given the deep infrastructure investments, Chinese authorities have made in the Maldives.
The Solih Government has a daunting task in front of it, where at one side it wants to reframe its ties with China and at the other side, it is trying to improve its relations with India, which has already hit a new low. In the same frame, Maldives could be seen making many “new & international friends”. A fine balance between different powers in the country is what Solih government wants today. The approach that the Solih Government takes to fine tune with various stakeholders of power, will be an interesting case to watch for. But, for now, Maldives has a reason to celebrate its newly found political stability.