Newy elected president of Maldives Ibrahim Mohammad Solih

by Brig Arun Bajpai

Surprises of surprise, when almost everybody thought that presidential elections of Maldives, a very small but strategically very important country located in the centre of Indian ocean, is a forgone conclusion and its china leaning despot President Abdulla Yameen , president since 2013 after ousting pro India president Mohammad Nasheed in 2012, will again be president and this election of Maldives is just a formality, the 89% people of Maldives who came out for voting , threw Abdulla out with a healthy margin of 17% votes there by proving that in democracy any thing is possible. this also presents to India another opportunity to re-calibrate its relations with Maldives.

It was in 2012 that the police revolt in Maldives ousted pro India president Mohammad Nahsheed and in 2013 in an disputed elections present president Abdulla Yameen installed himself. Since becoming president Abdulla Yameen has been courting China. Not only he signed with China for China's belt and Road initiative, he gave all infrastructural work including even basic amenities works to China and Chinese companies getting more and more in Chinese debt trap , a basic fear which all Maldivians had and the main reason why they ousted Abdulla Yameen in these elections. Actually nobody in Maldives thought that Abdulla Yameen will agree to relinquish his presidency so easily after this election defeat. We must not forget that apart from dismantling all institution of democracy in Maldives, it was Abdulla Yameen who imposed emergency for 45 days this February in Maldives because he feared that opposition may bring in impeachment motion against him. However Abdulla Yameen has now appeared on Maldivian TV to announce that he respects the voting decision of Maldivian people in these elections and will relinquish his presidency.

The new elected president of Maldives is Ibrahim Mohammad Solih who is the joint candidate of three opposition parties of Maldives. He is a pro democracy candidate. Unlike Abdulla Yameen in whose presidency period he have all help to China and Saudi Arabia to spread their tentacles in Maldives, Radical Islam got a solid fillip, New Delhi was marginalised while China was encouraged, Maldives was taken out from Commonwealth league of nations, Maldives last year signed 12 China friendly agreements, Maldives became second nation in South Asia after Pakistan who signed a Free Trade Agreement with China, Solih is a moderate person and candidate. Because of all these shenanigans of previous President Abdullla Yameen the major opposition parties of Maldives blamed Abdulla of helping China in acquiring land in Maldives at very cheap rates.

All said and done this election in Maldives presents a major opportunity for India to re-calibrate its relations with Maldives. This election shows that people of Maldives are against china acquiring cheap land and other facilities including influence in Maldives. India must capitalise on this sentiments of Maldivian’s. while India has given a very positive statement on this development now it must capitalise on the same. however it will not be a cake walk for India and the new president Mohamad Solih. China with its money bags have been throwing money in Maldives here there and every where. This money has got them influence in Maldives which it will be difficult for India to match with its limited purse strings. Similarly it is alright that three major opposition parties have come together to field Mr Mohammad Solih, but the main test starts when Mr Solih starts governing Maldives. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity which India must grab without delay and open hands.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same