Indian minister visits Maldives amid warming relations

AP News
Posted: Oct 10, 2015 5:42 PM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the Maldives on Saturday amid signs of reviving relations with the neighboring archipelago state whose leaning toward China had angered the regional giant.

Swaraj arrived in the capital Male and will lead the India-Maldives Joint Commission on Sunday, the Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year avoided Maldives in his tour of neighboring island states. He didn't state a specific reason, however it was seen as an attempt to avoid controversy amid political turmoil in the Maldives following the arrest of a pro-India ex-president and the country's increasing leaning toward China.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has since been convicted of ordering the military detention of a top judge while in office three years ago and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

China in recent years has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean, which India considers to be its territory of influence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Maldives in 2013 and obtained support from Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom for his modern maritime silk road initiative seen as a way of encircling India and controlling port access along sea lanes linking the energy-rich Persian Gulf and economic centers in eastern China.

During Xi's visit Maldives also handed an airport expansion project to China, which had earlier been taken away from India.