President Abdulla Yameen has stated that while the Maldives has “close ties” with China, “nothing will precede ties with India, which are far more precious”.
Yameen told Indian media during his recent official trip to the country, that he had assured its leaders that the bond between the two neighbouring countries is “heartfelt” and “based on sentiments”.
“India’s primary concern has been security in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean and our views on the issues are exactly similar to India’s views. So it was not a difficult proposition at all.”
“We have agreed and we have exchanged views on areas of concern such as security, fighting against terrorism and fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean. So we are largely to gain from these matters that are a concern to India while we share the Indian sentiments and we have totally endorsed them,” he continued.
“While we have had a slight rough patch with India, the time of good relations far outweigh the rough patches we had. I suppose it is easy for us to be on the right track again,” Yameen said, referring to the issues between the countries following the cancellation of the airport development contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR.
“My trip here is the testimony to that fact. This is my first visit after I assumed office and India has been a gracious host to me. The Prime Minister of India has been very generous and kind. The talks were absolutely satisfying,” Yameen opined about the outcome of the visit.
The two countries agreed on numerous plans to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation, to increase and protect businesses and investments, as well as assistance in multiple development projects.
However, Yameen dismissed questions regarding rising religious radicalism in the Maldives, stating that “there is nothing to worry about at this time”.
“There are people with different thoughts. Very orthodox views. But that has not escalated into an issue of concern. It has not been a source of concern. But yes, India and Maldives, we have both agreed on our position against terrorism, on piracy in the Indian Ocean,” he continued.
“Islamic sentiments are a thing that people hold privately. I would not like to categorize that. This is however not an issue to worry about at this point in time,” he said.
As recently as May 2013, however, both the Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam and then Attorney General Aishath Bisham warned of increased risks of terror attacks and of Maldivian youth enrolling in terror training camps.
In the same month, Reporters Without Borders labelled Maldives’ extremist groups as “predators of press freedom”.
Development project agreements
India and the Maldives have agreed to begin implementation of an agreement on cooperation in development projects signed in 2011 titled the “Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development”.
The Agreement, signed during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, mandates the establishment of a joint commission to oversee projects implemented under the programme, and a minimum of one annual meeting of the said commission.
A joint statement released by the two governments announced that the commission’s inaugural meeting will be held in 2014.
President Yameen stated on Monday that the ties between Maldives and India has been at their closest in the past 50 years during the time when his half brother and leader of ruling Party Progressive Party of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was in power.
Yameen stated that the close ties are a direct result of Gayoom’s foreign policy, and the maintenance of mutual respect between the two countries since that time. He asserted that the current government will be re-implementing the foreign policy that Gayoom had made during his administration.
He stated that dignitaries from among India’s leadership had stated the same during the meetings held in his official visit.
Following Yameen’s return to the country on January 4, Gayoom made an official visit to the President’s Office on Monday to assure the government of unwavering cooperation and assistance from the ruling party.