As Male on Monday assured Delhi that it would remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns, India has loosened its purse strings and decided to consider a request to build a new cricket stadium, enhance capacity of the health sector and set-up LED street lights in the Maldives capital.
These were among the outcomes from External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s meeting with Maldives leadership, including President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Foreign minister Abdullah Shahid on Monday.
“Foreign Minister 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 also reiterated that the Government of Maldives would remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns, ” read a joint statement.
This assumes significance as Beijing had increased its strategic and economic footprint in the island nation – something which the new leadership in Maldives is trying to correct.
This was the first full-fledged ministerial visit from India after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came to power in November last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih.
The two foreign ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region, and to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security.
In Sushma visit, a significant signal
With a friendly government in Maldives in place after Abdulla Yameen was ousted in November last year, Delhi had moved quickly to build a rapport with the new leadership. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit, despite the election season and the model code of conduct, is an important signal to Male on Delhi’s seriousness about the relationship. Much will depend on how quickly India is able to deliver the goods for Male.
Shahid expressed Maldives commitment to support India’s efforts to combat terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, and crimes such as piracy, organised crime, narcotic drugs and human trafficking.
The two sides signed three agreements, including on exemption from visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and official passports, an MoU on Indian grant assistance for implementation of high impact community development projects through local bodies and a pact on collaboration in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Noting the key role that India continues to play in the socio-economic development of the Maldives, Shahid expressed gratitude for its support towards the renovation of Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Swaraj announced India’s continued support for the further development of the health sector through provision of equipment, and capacity building programmes. The Maldivian side appreciated the gifting of LED bulbs and LED street lights for Male City.
While discussing cooperation in the field of youth and sports, Maldives requested Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium. The Indian side agreed to consider the request.
Indian leadership appreciated the decision of the Maldivian side to provide land in Hulhumalé for the Indian Embassy.
Maldives thanked for the provision of financial assistance in the form of budgetary support, currency swap, and concessional lines of credit. She announced the decision to renew the quota for essential commodities, as requested by Maldives, including river sand and stone aggregate, for a period of 3 years, starting from 1 April 2019.
Welcoming the increase in trade volume over the past few years, both Foreign Ministers agreed to improve connectivity as a means to promote the exchange of goods and services, culture, and people. The ministers also agreed on the need to boost private sector involvement, and agreed to hold the Maldives-India Business Forum in 2019.
Besides meeting former President Mohamed Nasheed, there was a joint ministerial meeting in which Swaraj held discussions with Shahid, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer and other ministers.
She also met Maldivian Home Minister Imran Abdulla on Monday and discussed steps to continue the upward trajectory in bilateral relationship.
The Maldivian side expressed its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UNSC. The Maldivian side also reiterated support for India’s candidature for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.