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  India   All India  27 Nov 2018  India assures full support for Maldives’ development

India assures full support for Maldives’ development

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Nov 27, 2018, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Nov 27, 2018, 12:11 am IST

A meeting was held on Monday between visiting Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in the capital.

PM Narendra Modi interacts with former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga during the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in Male, Maldives. (PIB photo via PTI
 PM Narendra Modi interacts with former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga during the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in Male, Maldives. (PIB photo via PTI

New Delhi: Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will make an official visit to India on December 17, the two countries agreed on Monday, with India assuring its support to ensuring Maldives’ “fiscal and budgetary stability” while the Maldives reiterated its “India First” policy and promised to be “sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns”.

This was decided on Monday following a meeting between visiting Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and external affairs minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj in the capital.

India assured its tiny south-western maritime neighbour that New Delhi “stands ready to fully support the government of Maldives in its socio-economic development” and of “support in implementing its development priorities”.

Defence cooperation bet-ween the two neighbours — who are now the best of friends once again — was also discussed, with the ministers agreeing “to hold the next meeting of the Defence Cooperation Dialogue between both countries in the first half of December 2018.

New Delhi also supported Maldives’ decision to rejoin the Commonwealth and “also welcomed Maldives into the Indian Ocean Rim Association as its newest member”.  

The Maldivian assurance that it would be sensitive to Indian strategic concerns is a veiled reference to New Delhi’s earlier concerns about the proximity between the Maldives and China during the tenure of the former president Abdulla Yameen when New Delhi’s ties were strained with Male. Mr Yameen had been defeated by M. Solih in the recent presidential election in the archipelago nation, much to the relief of India.

It may be recalled that during former President Mr Yameen’s tenure when the Maldives was extremely close to China, Beijing had undertaken several infrastructure projects then in the archipelago nation due to which the Maldives reportedly now owes a huge financial debt to China.

By furnishing the assurance that India would ensure Maldivian budgetary stability, New Delhi is therefore certain to step up economic support to Maldives. Not surprisingly, given the Maldivian need for urgent economic assistance from India to stabilise the Maldives’ troubled and debt-ridden economy, the Maldivian foreign minister was also accompanied by finance minister Fayaaz Ismail and economic fevelopment minister Ibrahim Ameer.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Shahid had reportedly told an Indian news website on Sunday that his country needed US$ 250 million to 350 million immediately in order to tide over a budgetary crisis and that he is hoping for financial assistance from the Indian Government. “We have an immediate budgetary crisis. We need US$ 250 million to 350 million  in order to handle the difficult budgetary situation ... We’re hoping that we will once again be able to get the generous assistance of the Indian Government,” Mr. Shahid had been quoted as telling the news website.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said,  The Foreign Ministers agreed that State Visit of President Solih to India will take place on December 17, 2018.  ... EAM reiterated that India attaches highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity. She said that that in line with Government of India’s Neighbourhood First policy, India stands ready to fully support the Government of Maldives in its socio-economic development. ... Both sides held discussions on how to strengthen the development partnership between both countries. India assured the Maldives of support in implementing its development priorities and in ensuring fiscal and budgetary stability.”
 
The MEA added, “Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid reiterated his Government’s “India First” policy and said that his government looks forward to working closely with the government of India on all issues. He reaffirmed Maldives’ special, close and friendly relations with India. Minister Abdulla also reiterated that the government of Maldives will be sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns. ... The Ministers discussed security and defence matters including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation. In this regard, they agreed to hold the next meeting of the Defence Cooperation Dialogue between both countries in the first half of December 2018.”

Ms. Swaraj also accepted an invitation to visit the Maldives. Meanwhile, the MEA further said, “The Ministers recognised that, given the historical and cultural links between both countries, people-to-people contact between both countries was important. In this regard, they agreed to hold the meeting of the bilateral Consular Dialogue at the earliest. ... They also decided to hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers at the earliest.”

Tags: ibrahim mohamed solih, external affairs minister
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi