In his first bilateral visit after taking office in his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Maldives today. He had visited the country in November to attend President Ibrahim Solih’s swearing-in ceremony, but it was not a full-fledged bilateral visit. In his first term, Modi had chosen Bhutan as the first foreign destination. The visit is seen as a continuation of the government’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.
India has, for several years, invested heavily in Maldives, providing military aid, training and “capacity-building”. In 1988, India foiled a coup in Male with its Operation Cactus wherein Indian troops flew in and rescued then Maldives President Gayoom. Maldives is just 1,200 km away from Indian mainland. The country, home to around 22,000 Indians, is of strategic importance. However, the country’s last President Abdulla Yameen had courted investments from China borrowing millions of dollars for an infrastructure blitz since coming to power in 2013 and pushed his country into debt. The pro-China tilt of Maldives had worried India.