India to send Kiren Rijiju to oath event of Maldives’ next Prez. Why it is a downgrade
It reflects a significant downgrade from the prime minister’s presence at the previous presidential swearing-in ceremony in Maldives
New Delhi: India will be represented at the inauguration of the Maldives’ new pro-China leader by earth sciences minister Kiren Rijiju, reflecting a significant downgrade from the prime minister’s presence at the previous presidential swearing-in ceremony.
Rijiju will visit the Maldives during November 16-18 at the invitation of president-elect Mohamed Muizzu, the external affairs ministry announced on Wednesday. Rijiju will represent India at the inaugural ceremony of the presidency, which is expected to be held on November 17.
The external affairs ministry described the Maldives as India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean region, and said the archipelago has a special place in the country’s vision of “Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)” 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 said.
The Maldives had invited heads of state or government of neighbouring countries and close partners and representatives of multilateral organisations to the inauguration of Muizzu, who is backed by a coalition perceived as close to China. He had championed an “India Out” campaign and has pledged to remove all Indian security personnel from the Maldives.
During a presidential runoff in September, Muizzu defeated President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, whose inauguration in September 2018 was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Representatives from 46 countries had attended Solih’s swearing-in, though Modi was the only head of government invited to the event.
Rijiju belongs to the border state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China. The Chinese side has always been uncomfortable about the presence of ministers or officials from Arunachal Pradesh at bilateral or multilateral events.
Solih had adopted an “India First” policy after coming to power, and New Delhi responded by offering budgetary support and grants and soft loans worth billions of dollars for infrastructure and development projects.
In contrast, the Indian side has warily watched the rise of Muizzu, who is close to former president Abdulla Yameen, whose administration was marked by the Maldives’ close alignment with China.
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