There was a time when the Maldives and India had close economic ties but when Yameen came to power, the country pivoted towards China. President Solih is pro-India and his government is intent on rebuilding ties with India by reaffirming an India First Policy. But this is not the only political shift in the Maldives under the current president.
In 2013, Yameen came into power during a controversial and convoluted election process that observers say was rigged. Bilateral ties between India and the Maldives took a dip when India criticised the treatment of former president Nasheed. In 2015 Nasheed was arrested and sentenced to thirteen years in prison on a controversial terrorism charge under Yameen's rule. Yameen had also rejected visa renewals for Indian nationals who were working in the Maldives legally, without giving reasons. Nasheed’s jail term was overturned when Solih became president last year. He was also a part of the opposition coalition that ousted Yameen eventually.
With China slapping a US$3.2 billion bill on the Maldives after Yameen's presidency concluded, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped up and announced in December 2018 that he would be giving US$1.4billion of financial aid to the Maldives—a close friend and ally—to partially pay off the nation’s debt to China. Modi, who was recently re-elected, is also adopting a Neighbourhood-first policy, forging closer ties with the Maldives with a recent visit in June 2019.
Given its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives plays a vital role in maintaining the maritime trade that takes place in the Indian Ocean and is more than the tourism value it is known for. Its current president may bring a measure of economic and political stability to the nation, but much of this will depend on his ability to maintain peaceful ties with not just India, but China as well. That skillfully struck equilibrium will shape the geopolitical landscape of the Indo-Pacific region.