President Abdulla Yameen has returned to the Maldives after an official trip to India, where both countries made multiple mutual agreements of cooperation for the development of various sectors.
Speaking to media upon his return, both Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom have claimed that ties with India have become “as strong as they were during Gayoom’s time in power”.
It was claimed that rifts between the countries had risen as a result of the failure of the Nasheed and Waheed administrations to raise inter-country discussion as a key strategy.
Upon returning from his trip, President Yameen briefed the media on the various deliberations that had taken place between the Maldivian government’s high level delegation and their counterparts in India during the trip from January 1 to 4.
He stated that the delegation was able to find solutions for “a large part of the major difficulties” the country is facing at the moment, predicting ease in the obtainment of visa and the availability of basic food staples, fuel and construction material.
He added that long deliberations had also been held regarding regional maritime security.
The president also extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit the Maldives.
SBI to increase lending, GMR to get cash compensation
Yameen revealed that talks had been held with representatives from the State Bank of India (SBI) regarding the granting of an increase in the amount of loans released by the bank’s branch in the Maldives – titled ‘portfolio landing’. The president stated that this would benefit customers of SBI and businesses investing in the country.
“Indian leaders pledged to provide approximately one billion dollars needed for development of the Maldives to SBI, and that this will facilitate businesses in the country in the near future,” member of the visiting delegation and government coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader Ahmed Shiyam stated.
Shiyam went on to describe the trip as “the most successful trip a Maldivian leader has ever made to India”.
President Yameen stated on Saturday that GMR – Indian infrastructure giant with which the former administration had made a contract for airport development – would not be given the airport as compensation for cancelling the agreement, but rather would be given the compensation in the form of money.
He stated the government is currently considering ways of solving this matter at a time when “the state budget itself is so tight”, claiming that he had suggested a resolution other than the renewal of the contract.
“My hope is that the GMR matter can be solved with the government having to pay a fine that is affordable,” he stated, adding that while the company has informed local media that the compensation fee is US$1.2 billion, the amount was quoted as US$700 to 800 million by former Attorney General Azima Shakoor.
He revealed that the government’s approach is to find a solution agreeable to both parties prior to the completion of the arbitration case, which they believe will increase India government’s trust in the Maldivian government.
“Truth is that according to my calculations GMR has invested about 168 to 170 million dollars, and so there is no question as to whether they are entitled to compensation. Compensation must be granted. The question, however, is whether we have to pay the full amount that they are claiming,” Yameen said.
Protection of investments
Additionally, India pledged to provide funds for the establishment of a police academy and a composite training facility for the MNDF security forces. Agreements were also made by which India will provide funds to repair and develop the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in the capital city, Malé.
Further plans were made to facilitate better connections between Cochin, in India, and Male’ via sea and air travel. Both leaders also noted that it is of crucial importance to introducing direct flights between the Maldives and Delhi.
The leaders signed two agreements regarding the health sector, and an agreement regarding the provision of land from India to construct a Maldivian Embassy.
Vice President Jameel stated that bilateral relations were now “approaching the close ties that were seen before”.
“With the President’s trip, we have the opportunity of raising to a whole new level the historically strong bonds between the two countries. India has fulfilled everything that the Maldives requested for,” Jameel is quoted as saying in local media.
He further claimed that the struggles the Maldives had to undergo in the past five years have been solved with a single trip to India by President Yameen, with former President Gayoom backing this assertion.
“During the President’s trip, India has given assurance that we will be soon enjoying a relationship as devoid of problems as the one we had during the time I was in power,” Gayoom told local media. “Things will soon be as smooth as they were during my time. We are seeing an end to the problems we have at present.”