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Yameen loses power in Maldives: India has a fresh opportunity in South Asia

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Male, Sept 24: India heaved a sigh of relief as Maldives, its small maritime neighbour to the south, saw president Abdullah Yameen losing the election to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Sunday, September 23. The Ministry of External Affairs said India was happy to see a successful completion of the election process and congratulated Solih, a senior leader of Maldivian Democratic Party, on his victory.

Abdullah Yameen

"This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law. In keeping with our 'Neighbourhood First' Policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership," it said, a report in Maldives Independent said.

India-Maldives relations nosedived under Yameen

There is reason for India to feel happy over the latest developments in the Maldives. The two South Asian countries have a historical relationship and they have close similarities in areas of ethnicity, language and culture. There are strong economic and people-to-people relations. Over the last four years, the government of Yameen took an extremely anti-India stance and even wooed India's rivals like China and Pakistan. It also jailed many pro-India leaders of Maldives, including former presidents like Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Maldives elections: Pro China Yameen ousted

In December last year, just days after inking a free trade agreement with China, Maldives suspended three members of a local council over their meeting the Indian ambassador to the country, Akhilesh Mishra. It even asked India to withdraw the helicopters it had gifted to its small neighbour.

The relation between New Delhi and Male turned for the worse earlier this year when Yameen extended a state of emergency in Maldives by a month. India, which was so far showing soft disappointment over Maldives' internal developments, spoke out strongly against the Yameen regime. The Madivian government also allegedly resorted to visa denial to Indians, something which hurt the relations all the more, much to the glee of China which found this a welcome opportunity intrude further into the Indian Ocean Region.

Sri Lanka, Maldives elections show multiculturalism is preferred everywhere

However, it has been seen first in Sri Lanka and now in Maldives that dictatorial tendencies do not help those who try to ignite majoritarian sentiments in the final count and the more acceptable way is through promoting multiculturalism. Being a soft and democratic power, India always has the advantage of winning the faith and confidence of the centrist forces in these countries who eventually prevail over autocratic rulers who find it unsustainable over a long period of time.

India congratulates the victorious Maldives leader in the third presidential polls

These small nations are turning more democratic with each passing day and a system of checks and balances is gradually growing on their soil which plays out to New Delhi's advantage. A country like China doesn't take into account much about the diversity in ideas while trying to influence foreign lands and banks more on the economic factors.

But as the smaller countries turn more and more democratic, a view grows stronger in them suspecting China's economic influence which they feel would turn their own countries irreversibly indebted to Beijing's favours.

India's chance to regain neighbours' confidence

In this lies India's opportunity to regain the confidence of its neighbours who of late have moved away from it. India's age-old bonds with these countries will not allow a drastic change in their bilateral relations and New Delhi will have to be careful that it caters to the needs and interests of its smaller neighbours as well and not allow a 'big brotherly' image dominating the minds of these countries' rulers and their people.

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