Here’s what the result of Maldives’ Presidential election means for India and China


  • Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeated incumbent leader Abdulla Yameen by 134,616 votes to the latter’s 96,132 in the election, as per data from Maldives’ foreign ministry.
  • The result portends a renewed strengthening of ties between India and the island nation, which declined under the tenure of Yameen.
  • Solih, who had the support of former Presidents Nasheed and Gayoom, is expected to reverse his predecessor’s authoritarian and heavily pro-China approach once he takes power later this year.
Apprehension gave way to delight in New Delhi yesterday as the preliminary results of Maldives’ hotly contested Presidential election came to light. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the candidate put forth against the incumbent leader Abdulla Yameen, defeated his opponent by 134,616 votes to the latter’s 96,132, as per data from Maldives’ foreign ministry.

The result portends a renewed strengthening of ties between India and the island nation, which began declining after the ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2012. In the aftermath, the country revoked a contract awarded to an Indian consortium for the upgrade of its international airport and eventually awarded it to a Chinese company in 2014.

India out, China in
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Under Yameen’s tenure, which began in 2013, Maldives butted heads with India on a number of issues such as the denial of work visas to hundreds of Indian citizens, the return of two helicopters gifted by India, the unfair sentencing of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and the state of emergency declared in February 2018. Infact, Maldives is the only country in the region that Modi hasn’t visited since he became Prime Minister in May 2014.

As ties with India disintegrated, Maldives moved closer into China’s embrace. Yameen signed a free trade agreement with China in December 2017 despite protests from the country’s opposition leaders for rushing the deal through the Parliament. In doing so, the island country became the second nation after Pakistan to enter into a free trade agreement with China.

Like Pakistan, Maldives also decided to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The strong relationship stoked concerns in India, which feared China would boost its military presence in the island nation.
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A new era?

India has now has its hopes set on the incoming President of Maldives to reinvigorate ties with it. Solih, who had the support of former Presidents Nasheed and Gayoom, is expected to reverse his predecessor’s authoritarian and heavily pro-China approach once he takes power in November.

The cofounder of the Maldivian Democratic Party, which is chaired by Nasheed, will likely try to maintain close relations with China, but will be wary of the debt trap faced by countries that have become part of the BRI. Given the opposition by his side to the free trade agreement with China, the deal could be reviewed. India could use this as an opportunity to regain influence in the country.
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