Male, November 16
Maldives President-elect Mohamed Muizzu will take oath of office on Friday at a ceremony in the capital Male, where India would be represented by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju.
Muizzu, a close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen who forged close ties with China during his Presidency from 2013 to 2018, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September.
He is due to take over the office on Friday after which he is expected to outline his foreign policy priorities.
At the invitation of President-elect Muizzu, Minister of Earth Sciences Rijiju arrived in Maldives on Thursday to represent India at the inaugural ceremony of the presidency.
The minister was received by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President-elect.
“Honoured to welcome @KirenRijiju, Hon. Minister of Earth Sciences of India, to #Maldives. His presence at the inauguration of President-elect Dr @MMuizzu, representing Hon. PM @narendramodi, Govt & people of India, reflects the long-standing partnership between our 2 nations,” former minister and senior leader of the president’s party Moosa Zameer said in a post on X.
Maldives is India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.
“This high-level Ministerial representation from India at the inaugural ceremony underscores India’s commitment to further deepen the substantive cooperation and robust people-to-people ties between the two countries,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement this week.
India is looking forward to productive discussions with the new leadership of the Maldives to further enhance the bilateral relationship, High Commissioner of India to Maldives Munu Mahawar said last month when he met President-elect Muizzu and handed over a congratulatory message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
His election raised expectations in China that the archipelagic state strategically located in the Indian Ocean close to India’s southern coast would pursue pro-Beijing policies, unlike Solih who pursued an India-first policy and established close ties with New Delhi.
Observers say despite his party’s pro-China rhetoric, Muizzu, a British-educated civil engineer, may follow a more nuanced foreign policy as the country faces a precarious economy with several debt repayments due, taking a cue from the worst economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka.
India stepped in with USD four billion in assistance to Sri Lanka while China dithered despite massive BRI investments in the country including the Hambantota port which Beijing took over for a 99-year lease as debt swap.