The Maldives poll has thrown up a welcome surprise. Hardly anyone expected the incumbent President Abdulla Yameen to lose in the Indian Ocean archipelago. The universal fear was that he would rig the poll to retain power. However, the outcome has the joint opposition challenger, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, establishing an unbeatable lead over Yameen. India has special reason to feel happy. Yameen had been brazenly pro-China, virtually seeking to cut off the old relationship with India.
Yameen, shored up by the Chinese money and military aid, had sought to crush domestic dissent, imprisoning several Opposition figures, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, on frivolous of charges. When the Supreme Court voided the arrests, Yameen arrested two judges, freeing them only when the court reversed its order. Solih, leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party, has promised to free all political prisoners and to allow democratic freedoms. How he will correct the foreign policy remains to be seen. Yameen had turned Maldives into a client state of China which offered billions in project finance and sought to carve out new trading routes in the Indian Ocean. Hopefully, Solih will reset ties with China and restore closer relations with India. However, India, too, should avoid giving the impression of Big Brother, an attitude which helped China wean away some of the hitherto closest neighbours of this country.