Stop being 'stubborn' and mend fences with neighbours: Ex-Maldives Prez to Muizzu

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu. File photo: PTI

Male: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu must stop being "stubborn" and seek dialogue with neighbours to overcome the financial challenges, his predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said. Solih made these remarks days after Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, urged India to provide debt relief to the archipelago nation.

Muizzu, 45, defeated Solih, 62, in the presidential election held in September last year. Speaking at an event in Male' to rally support for Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary candidates contesting four constituencies in Maafannu, Solih said he had seen media reports that suggest Muizzu wants to talk to India for debt restructuring.

But the financial challenges are not caused by Indian loans, Solih was quoted as saying by news portal. Maldives has a debt of MVR 18 billion owed to China compared to MVR 8 billion owed to India, Solih said, adding that the repayment period is 25 years.

"However, I am confident that our neighbours will help. We must stop being stubborn and seek dialogue. There are many parties that can help us. But he (Muizzu) doesn't want to compromise. I feel they [the government] are starting to understand the situation only now," Solih said.

The former president said the government was deceiving the public and relaunching projects initiated by the MDP government. He said ministers are now lying to cover up those lies.

Muizzu criticised India during and after the presidential election campaign and relations between the two countries have deteriorated since he assumed office in November.

He has demanded the complete withdrawal of 88 Indian military personnel manning three aviation platforms used for humanitarian and medical evacuations in the Maldives by May 10. The first batch of 26 Indian military personnel have already left the island nation and were replaced by civilians.

In his first media interview, Muizzu claimed that he has not taken any action or made any statements that may strain the relationship between the two countries.

India will continue to remain the Maldives' closest ally, he said and emphasised that there was no question about it, Maldives news portal said in a report on Thursday. Muizzu's conciliatory comments towards India came ahead of Parliament elections in Maldives slated to be held on April 21.

He is yet to visit India although it has been four months since the new government took over. The first overseas trip by Maldivian presidents had always been to India, the report noted. However, Muizzu visited China in January, making his first state visit. 

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