India on Monday welcomed the result of the presidential election in the Maldives with early reports showing that the joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party has beaten incumbent Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
“We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
“We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” it stated.
The statement said that “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 stated.
With a number of prominent opposition figures of the country put behind bars, former President Mohamed Nasheed living in exile, a defunct parliament and a crippled judiciary, there was a big question mark over a free and fair election in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
The crisis in the Maldives began in February this year when President Gayoom of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) declared a state of Emergency.
The security forces had stormed into the Supreme Court and arrested two of its five sitting judges, sealed parliament house and detained prominent opposition leaders.
India is concerned with the political instability in the Maldives, which is just around 1,200 km away from the Indian mainland, for a variety of reasons.
The country, home to around 22,000 Indians, is of strategic importance to India and its growing proximity with China is a cause of concern for New Delhi.