Maldives President Solih speaks to China’s Xi Xingping days after call with Indian PM Modi

Amid the deepening crisis in the ruling party in the Maldives, President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih on Friday spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping--for the first time in recent years-- and discussed the Covid-19 and “other issues of mutual interest” in a phone call that came two days after his call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Jul 16, 2021
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Maldive-China-India

Amid the deepening crisis in the ruling party in the Maldives, President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih on Friday spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping--for the first time in recent years-- and discussed the Covid-19 and “other issues of mutual interest” in a phone call that came two days after his call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

During the call, which appeared fence-mending in nature and was possibly a reflection of the ideological strains in the ruling party over its perceived India tilt, Solih expressed gratitude to President Xi for donating 200,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses and also noted the “important role played by China towards global efforts to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.” China has remained “one of the most significant development partners” of the Maldives, he noted in a statement released by his office. 

Significantly, Solih’s efforts to reach out to China come at a time when his government is facing risk due to a growing rift in the ruling party. Nasheed, former president and a senior leader of the ruling party, has reportedly threatened to form a government with the help of the jailed opposition leader and former president Abdullah Yameen. 

In the Maldives, Nasheed is considered a favorite of India. He openly criticizes China for its debt trap and calls India a ‘true and reliable friend’ of the archipelago.

Both, Nasheed, who is currently the speaker of parliament, and Solih, are childhood friends. Together in 2019, they dislodged former president Abdullah Yameen from power, who grew increasingly closer to China at the cost of its relations with India. Under, Solih, the relations between the Maldives and India, improved significantly. 

A few weeks ago, Nasheed had reportedly told his party members that he could no longer stand in political alignment with President Mohammed Solih. The former also added that they had no personal differences.

Earlier this week, Modi’s call to Solih on Wednesday came when the rift between the top two leaders became public. The tussle between Solih and Nasheed has the potential to threaten the government India considers friendly. 

Nasheed also suggested the MDP, the ruling party, should work with jailed opposition leader Yameen if the latter’s party moderated its religious views and abandoned anti-Indian rhetoric. 

Solih’s recent overture to China might also be a tactic to ward off any impending Indian pressure as India has always supported Nasheed politically. Chances that India might already be pressuring Solih couldn't be ignored either. 

Already, the growing anti-Indian rhetoric in the Maldives, covertly backed by opposition leaders, has already weakened the current administration politically. (SAM)