In a strong message of friendship, former President Mohammed Nasheed on Sunday asserted the India is the “single most important country” for Maldivian people.

“I think our neighbour India is probably the single most important country for Maldivian people...We come from the same stock, we listen to the same music, we read the same books and we eat the same food so it is difficult to say otherwise even if sentimentally we would like to come out with another,” Mr. Nasheed, the winner of the first round of presidential election, said.

Mr. Nasheed was responding to a question posed by a Chinese journalist during his first press conference, asking him which is the most important country for Maldives.

The first democratically elected President, who was forced to resign under duress, said Indian Ocean would be a far more peaceful place if Maldives does not play one country against the another, an oblique reference to the policies adopted by his rivals.

“I think the Indian Ocean would be a far more peaceful place if the Maldives as a nation does not try to play one country against another. We must be able to live peacefully in the Indian Ocean and international community must be able to have their concerns addressed in the Indian Ocean. I believe a peaceful and democratic Maldives would facilitate that,” he said.

When asked what about relations with China, Mr. Nasheed said, “We have very good relations with China...”

Mr. Nasheed said his opponents are speaking the language of xenophobia and racism. “We are far more international party,” he said.

When asked about the results, he said he was sure that he would be able to score a clear majority in the second round.