NEW DELHI: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, president-elect of the Maldives, has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that "India is always the closest ally" to the island nation and will remain so.
Solih, who won Sunday's presidential election defeating incumbent Abdulla Yameen, is expected to take office before the latter's term ends on November 17.
In an interview to a local television channel on Tuesday, Solih said Modi had called to congratulate him on his victory Monday and invited him to visit India soon. The PM also referred to the slump in bilateral relations and urged him to help fix it, Solih said. "I told him that India is always the closest ally to the Maldives, and guaranteed that it will remain that way."
Solih said when he stressed the importance of India's assistance in helping develop the Maldives, Modi had pledged full cooperation.
Delhi-Male relations had nose-dived after Yameen refused to accept a Supreme Court ruling in February ordering the release of nine senior political prisoners. Instead, he declared Emergency and jailed several judges and opposition politicians. Yameen's decision to allow massive Chinese investments in the Maldives also sparked concerns in India's strategic circles.
China on Monday hailed the election verdict, but also hoped the new government would stick to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by Yameen and "maintain consistency and stability of their policy and create an enabling environment and atmosphere for the Chinese operation there".
The controversial FTA, which is yet to come into effect, was rushed through the country's Parliament without debate last year.
Over Sunday and Monday, the Maldives courts freed 125 prisoners, including former commissioner of police Ahmed Areef and three opposition lawmakers who were remanded without convictions. However, the criminal court postponed its ruling on releasing former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his son and Dhiggaru MP Faris Maumoon, former chief justice Abdulla Saeed and former Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed. All of them were summoned by the court late Monday after they requested a review of the previous ruling to remand them until the end of their trials. But the court postponed the ruling on the grounds that they had been already convicted on various charges, and annulling the order to remand them until the end of their ongoing trials would not free them from the prison sentence they are serving.