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PM Modi embraces Maldives as new leader Solih takes office, China out of favour

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Male/New Delhi: Maldives’ President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih takes office , seeking help from India and the United States to climb out from under a mountain of Chinese debt that his predecessor racked up in a breakneck development of the coral islands.

The surprise defeat of pro-China strongman Abdulla Yameen has opened a window for India, the strategic outpost’s traditional political partner, to regain ground lost to Beijing in their tussle for regional dominance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the highest ranking visitor at the inauguration at the national soccer stadium in the capital Male. By contrast, China’s highest-ranking attendee will be Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.

 

“I will convey to the new Maldivian government … the desire of my government to work closely for realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development,” the Prime Minister said in a post on Facebook.

PM Modi’s presence signals the end of years of frosty relations because of Yameen’s embrace of China, a relationship that had deepened India’s anxieties about being encircled by countries leaning towards Beijing.

In Sri Lanka, an island nation to the southeast of India, the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing has been one of the triggers for a political crisis in recent weeks.

The low-key Solih, a veteran lawmaker, has promised an “India first” policy in the Maldives, saying the small nation of a little over 400,000 people needs solid ties with its immediate neighbour.

His team is also reviewing millions of dollars of investments from China, as well as the related debt that the country has run up from Chinese lenders and how to restructure it.

Solih has said investigations will be launched to find out what happened and fix accountability, Adam Azim, a member of his transition committee, told reporters.

“We were led to believe it’s about USD 1.5 billion, the Chinese debt, but it could be worse,” said another member of Solih’s top economic team, which has been holding discussions with finance ministry officials during the transition following the election in September.

He said the team had already reached out to India, the United States and Saudi Arabia for financial assistance so it could tackle the debt.

“We straightaway need 200-300 million dollars to kick start the budgetary support,” the adviser said.

Debt of USD 1.5 billion would be more than a quarter of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Another member of the incoming president’s economic team said firm proposals for assistance had been discussed with Indian and US officials.


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Ayodhya on high alert following intelligence inputs

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Ayodhya: Amid VIP movements, Ayodhya has been put on high alert soon after intelligence inputs indicated a possible terror attack in the city.

“We have put more force into action. The force has been alerted. Also, intelligence officials in the civil dress have come here. They are checking all hotels, restaurants and railway stations. The police force is vigilant and keeping a track of all the movements,” Anil Kumar Sisodia, Superintendent of Police City, told ANI.

This comes ahead of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya on Sunday along with his party MPs.

 

According to reports, the security has also been heightened keeping in mind the hearing on 2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack on June 18.

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Seven died while cleaning hotel sewer in Vadodara

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Vadodara: Seven persons, including four sanitation workers, died due to asphyxiation on Saturday while cleaning sewer of a hotel in Gujarat’s Vadodara district, officials said.

The incident happened at a hotel in Fartikui village in Dabhoi tehsil, about 30 km from Vadodara city. Three employees of the hotel were also among those killed.

“When one sanitation worker failed to come out of the manhole, others went inside. All of them died due to asphyxiation,” district collector Kiran Zaveri told PTI.

 
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Manmohan retires from Rajya Sabha

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New Delhi: For the first time in 28 years, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s name ceased to be part of the list of members of the Rajya Sabha on its Web site, and was included in the list of former members of Parliament.

With the Congress lacking the numbers in the Assam legislature to ensure his re-election, 86-year-old Dr Singh retired from the Rajya Sabha.

Dr Singh, then finance minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government, had debuted in the House on October 1, 1991, from Assam and represented the state for five consecutive terms. He was the leader of the House during his 10 years as PM, and leader of the Opposition from 1998 to 2004.The former PM would now need to wait for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the Congress, to send him to the Rajya Sabha next month or until the next biennial elections in the Upper House in April 2020 when 54 MPs retire.

 

Five Rajya Sabha members from Tamil Nadu retire in July. The DMK, along with its allies, has the strength in the state legislature to get at least three elected to the Rajya Sabha. It has promised one seat to MDMK chief Vaiko.

However, sources said the DMK and the Congress have not had any discussions on the issue.

The Congress could also hope to send Dr Singh to the Upper House from Gujarat if elections to fill the two vacancies from the state take place together.

The vacancies are on account of two Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat, Amit Anilchandra Shah and Smriti Zubin Irani, being elected to the Lok Sabha. Shah has debuted in the Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar while Irani is the Lok Sabha member from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress’s numbers in the Gujarat assembly would ensure the party wins one of the two seats, the other going to the BJP, if elections to the two seats are held jointly.

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