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India gets a reprieve in Sri Lanka & Maldives

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It is time once again for smiles and handshakes. After several years of frigid relations, India and the Maldives are back to the bonhomie of a traditional friendship. The new Maldivian President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who won a somewhat unanticipated election victory this October, was in New Delhi this week, calling India the “closest friend” of his country.

President Solih’s New Delhi visit and pronouncements marks a radical shift in the decidedly pro-Beijing policy adopted by his predecessor, the rabidly anti-Indian strongman Abdulla Yameen. Mr Yameen had kicked off his authoritative rule by sacking and imprisoning the country’s first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Nasheed, and ruthlessly suppressing real and imagined rivals, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Mr Yameen had virtually cut off all relations with India, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel his 2015 state visit to the Maldives. An unperturbed Mr Yameen had continued to cosy up to China, which poured in money into a number of big-ticket projects including a 2-km-long sea bridge linking the Maldivian capital, Male, with its airport.

China is believed to have secured permission to build ports and military installations in some of the 1,192 islands that comprise the tiny Indian Ocean republic. Chinese naval ships too began to visit Male. When Male cancelled a planned military exercise with New Delhi, it was clear that the country had slipped into the Chinese camp.

Now, with Mr Yameen out and Mr Solih in the top seat, it emerges that Chinese investments in the Maldives were part of a familiar pattern........

© Deccan Chronicle