Maldives today assured Indian leadership of its ‘India first policy’ – an affirmation which comes amid chill in bilateral ties over a host of issues, including the signing of an FTA between Maldives and China. The assurance was made by Maldivian Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim during talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
Asim, also special envoy of the President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and reiterated “the commitment of his government to maintain close relations with India under Maldives’ ‘India first’ policy”, an external affairs ministry release said. Modi affirmed that India would always be a reliable and close neighbour of Maldives supporting it in its progress and security.
Swaraj also conveyed India’s commitment in achieving the full potential of bilateral relationship in line with the government’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’. The visit by the Maldivian leader is seen as an effort by Male to assuage concerns of New Delhi following a free trade pact with China after which India had made it clear that it expected that as a close and friendly neighbour, the island nation would be sensitive to its concerns in keeping with its ‘India first’ policy.
The MEA release said discussions centred around strengthening of the development partnership between the two countries, and enhancing defence and security cooperation.Asim also reiterated Yameen’s invitation to the prime minister to visit Maldives. Modi conveyed his gratitude for the invitation and agreed to the visit at a suitable time, the release said.
During his call on, the special envoy also emphasised that Maldives attached the highest priority to its ties as close neighbours bound by shared history, culture and maritime interests in the Indian Ocean.
Asim conveyed the greetings of Yameen to the prime minister, which was warmly reciprocated by Modi.