India first, says Maldives – What visiting foreign minister Abdulla Shahid country said

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Updated: November 27, 2018 8:09 PM

“India-first”is the policy of the newly elected government of Maldives of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, says the visiting foreign minister Abdulla Shahid of that country.

The foreign minister of that country told media persons that his government was immediately looking for India to help them on the budgetary constraints that they were facing.

“India-first”is the policy of the newly elected government of Maldives of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, says the visiting foreign minister Abdulla Shahid of that country.

At a press meet in New Delhi on Tuesday, the visiting minister however clarified that “even as India was the closest and most-trusted friend of the Maldives, the new government in the island nation was open to engaging with other countries, including China.”

“Our message is very clear: India is our closest and most trusted friend and neighbour. We are committed to re-igniting the India-Maldives friendship and relationship, reaching new horizons, exploring new avenues while strengthening existing links,” he said.

Ahead of the visit of the President of Maldives in mid-Dec, Shahid, along with his country’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer and Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail, was on a two-day visit to India to discuss a range of issues including economic, social and defence cooperation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone for the swearing in ceremony of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last week.

The foreign minister of that country told media persons that his government was immediately looking for India to help them on the budgetary constraints that they were facing.

Responding to a question he said that, “We have received very positive feedback from India… India has given us an assurance they will help us sustain and stabilise the budget. The modalities of the same are being worked out.”

“We are also looking at India to lead in engaging with us on projects related to diversification of our economy. We want to vigorously engage with Indian business community on development of Indian economy,” he said.

He also confirmed that Male will retain two Indian military helicopters, which were gifted to the Maldives in 2013. Earlier this year, former Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen had decided to send back the helicopters to India after relations between the two South Asian neighbours nosedived over the emergency imposed in the island nation.

The visiting ministers during their various meetings with Indian leaders assured that Maldives recommitted itself to the 1979 visa agreement, and has plans to review it in due course. It also assured India that stalled projects between the two countries would move forward.

“We also reaffirm our commitment to the peace and security of the Indian Ocean and our neighbourhood. We are committed to keeping the Indian Ocean safe and secure, and to working with India to combat terrorism in all its forms,” the foreign minister Shahid added.

On the Maldives looking into deals made with China, Shahid said while many of those deals were made in secrecy and were being reviewed, and the island country continued to see China as a friend.

“The Free Trade Agreement (with China) was rushed through parliament… As foreign minister, I have asked my officials to review the document. We will publicly comment on it after the review is complete.”

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