Male, March 18 (IANS) India and the Maldives have reiterated support for each other in a number of areas of mutual interests including combating terrorism, while Maldives vowed to remain “sensitive” towards Indias strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was on a two-day official visit to the Indian Ocean island nation starting March 17 at the invitation of her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid. She was accompanied by a delegation of senior officials.
“Minister Shahid reiterated his government’s ‘India First Policy’ and said that his government looks forward to working closely with India on all issues. He also reiterated that the Maldives would remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns,” the joint statement after their meeting said on Monday.
Sushma Swaraj said that in line with her government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, India stands ready to fully support Maldives in its socio-economic development.
Both Foreign Ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the IOR, and to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security.
While Sushma Swaraj thanked the Maldives for its steadfast support against terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, Shahid expressed his country’s commitment to support efforts to combat terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, and crimes such as piracy, organized crime, narcotic drugs and human trafficking.
They discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations. Minister Shahid also hosted a dinner in Sushma Swaraj’s honour on Sunday evening.
The bilateral talks between the Foreign Ministers was followed by a joint ministerial meeting, in which Sushma Swaraj held discussions with Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam, Health Minister Abdulla Ameen, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Aishath Nahula, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Yumna Maumoon, Environment Minister Hussain Rasheed Hassan, and Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail.
She also met Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla and called on the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Speaker Qasim Ibrahim.
Shahid thanked the Indian government for its support towards the renovation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, which stands as an enduring symbol of friendship between the two countries.
Sushma Swaraj announced the 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.
She also announced the decision to renew the quota for essential commodities, as requested by the Maldives, including river sand and stone aggregate, for a period of three years, starting from April 1 this year.
Welcoming the increase in trade volume over the past few years, both Foreign Ministers agreed on the need to boost private sector involvement, and agreed to hold the Maldives-India Business Forum in 2019.
The Foreign Ministers reiterated the importance of an effective multilateral system as a key factor in tackling global challenges and agreed on the need to pursue reform of the main UN bodies, including the General Assembly, and the UN Security Council.
The Maldivian side expressed its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldivian side also reiterated support for India’s candidature for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
During the visit, the two sides signed three agreements on visa relaxation, development projects and renewable energy.
The Maldivian side requested Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium. The Indian side agreed to positively consider the request.
The Indian side appreciated the decision of the Maldivian side to provide land in Hulhumale for the Indian Embassy.