Indian High Commission holds cancer screening camps

The Indian High Commission to the Maldives will be hold free cancer screenings at ADK Hospital on February 4 and 5, and in Ghaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo on February 6, as part of its health and wellness month.

In addition to the screenings, the high commission is organising a cancer awareness walk in Malé on February 4 at 4pm, in partnership with Basavatarakm Indo American Cancer Hospital (BIACH) in Hyderabad, ADK hospital, and the Cancer Society of Maldives.

The walk will be followed by yoga instruction at the artificial beach, while similar yoga workshops are to be organised in Himmafushi, Villingili, and Bandos during the month.

Last month the high commission held a number of Bollywood themed events, including a dance show, quiz, and a film festival as part of year-long celebrations of diplomatic relations with the Maldives.

“In celebration of the 50th anniversary of relations and Maldivian Independence, every month will include thematic activities as part of a year-long celebration,” said Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare.

Other events for the wellness month include a blood donation camp held on February 27. The high commission requests everyone to register in advance for these camps by calling 763 8246.


Closer Chinese ties not a replacement for strained Indian relations: President’s Office

The President’s Office has said efforts to establish closer political and economic links with China are not an attempt to directly replace bilateral assistance traditionally provided by India – despite the recent strained relationship between Male’ and New Delhi.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed was reported in Sri Lankan media on the weekend as providing “hints” that the Maldives was moving away from India and towards China in terms of development, economic assistance and bilateral ties.

Senior Advisor to President Waheed, Teresa Wells, said despite a changing relationship with China that had led to growing economic and diplomatic ties in recent years, efforts were also under way to improve relations with India due to earlier decisions by the current government.

Dr Waheed has lately come under criticism by some partners in his coalition government – who are directly contesting against him in this year’s election – for his alleged handling of bilateral relations with India since coming to power last February.

Wells dismissed any implication that ties with India were being cut or reduced.

“The president feels that relations are improving with India,” she said. “ We would want relationships with both India and China.”

Speaking to the Sri Lankan Sunday Times newspaper on July 7, President Waheed said the relationship between the Maldives and India has been strained after his government last November declared a US$511 million airport development agreement with India-based GMR void.

He added that although restrictions on visas for Maldivian patients seeking medical treatment in India and a supply of construction materials remained in place, improvements had since been seen in bilateral relations between the two countries.

President Waheed said that the Maldives had also nonetheless moved to boost commerce ties with China.

“In terms of bilateral assistance, we have more access to Chinese financing now for development projects,” he said.

“Chinese nationals now make up the biggest chunk of tourists to the Maldives. With Europe in recession there is a slight decline of European tourists but with the middle class in China growing, the Maldives has become a new destination for them.”

Election predictions

Dr Waheed also expressed confidence during his visit to Sri Lanka that he would win September’s election by defeating former President Mohamed Nasheed, whom he succeeded following a controversial transfer of power in February last year on the back of a mutiny by sections of the country’s police and military.

“I am very confident of victory in the upcoming poll because I know that the Maldivian people will prefer me over the other candidates. I have steered Maldives through rough waters and very difficult times,” he told the Sunday Times.

“No one will join the former president because everybody has had a bad taste in the mouth after what happened last time.”

President’s own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) is currently facing potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) last month alleged that of 100 members of the GIP interviewed, 85 percent of those polled had no knowledge of ever joining the party.

National interests

President Waheed also drew on parallels between himself and Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa in terms of efforts to protect national interests and “sovereignty”.

“Sometimes when we are smaller countries there is a tendency to push us around but we both feel we need to stand up to them,” he said.

Playing up his commitment to national interests, President Waheed also told Sri Lankan media that while the state-owned Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) had not ruled out future foreign assistance to develop the airport, the country could oversee such work itself.

“The airport is now being managed by our own airport company and there are plans to develop it. We will soon be developing a second runway. We will find the investment facility to develop the airport the way we want,” he was quoted as saying.

The Maldives faces a potential bill of US$1.4 billion – an amount four times the size of the Maldives’ state reserves – from GMR as part of compensation being sought in a Singapore through an ongoing arbitration process.

Coalition criticism

Despite Waheed’s claims about securing financing for the airport, the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last month claimed foreign investors were now turning away from the Maldives due to concerns about political stability and safety in the country.

On June 29, PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen was quoted in local media as expressing concern that foreign businesses were shunning the Maldives in favour of financing projects in other countries in the region.

“With our present woes no one wants to invest here. They are looking at Seychelles and Caracas. No foreign investor wants to come to the Maldives,” Haveeru reported him as saying.

Earlier the same month, the PPM – part of the current coalition government – accused President Waheed of ignoring its advice by abruptly terminating the airport development contract with GMR.

MP Ahmed Nihan alleged that while the PPM believed terminating the GMR contract had been the right decision, President Waheed had nonetheless personally taken an executive decision to cancel the agreement without listening to the party’s advice in seeking a compromise with the company and the Indian government.

However, the PPM’s coalition partners later accused the party of making “contradictory statements” regarding the decision to terminate GMR’s concession agreement, accusing its senior leadership of trying to terminate the deal at the time without discussion or following due process.

Despite the high-profile termination of GMR’s concession agreement, the government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January.

The list instead included concerns such as discrimination against Indian expatriates and the confiscation of passports by Maldivian employers.


India hosts Maldivian delegations to ensure “free, fair and credible” elections

India’s Elections Commission (ECI) and parliament are hosting respective delegations from the Maldives’ Elections Commission (ECM) and Majlis in an effort to ensure September’s presidential elections are conducted in a “free, fair and credible manner”.

A seven member delegation from the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) is in India for six days as part of a cooperative program with the Elections Commission of India (ECI) to enhance the Maldives’ capacity to hold the upcoming presidential and local council elections.

While in India, the ECM has the opportunity to acquire first-hand experience during the Karnataka state assembly elections. The ECI is also organising a special election-related training module for the ECM in Mysore.

ECM President Fuad Taufeeq is leading the delegation, which includes other ECM senior officials. Prior to departing for India on May 4 the Maldives’ delegation met with the High Commissioner of India Rajeev Shahare to discuss the visit and other election related issues.

The ECM delegation is expected to return May 9.

Meanwhile, a Maldivian parliamentary delegation led by Parliament Speaker MP Abdulla Shahid is also in India and met with Indian Parliamentary Speaker Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar yesterday (May 6).

Kumar assured the visiting delegation that India would extend “all possible assistance” – in close coordination with the ECM – to ensure the September presidential elections are conducted smoothly and peacefully.

She expressed her hope that elections may be held in a free, fair and credible manner.

Kumar said that India and Maldives enjoy “special and time ­tested relations” and reiterated India’s continued commitment to further strengthen and diversify the bilateral relationship. Along those lines, she emphasised the collective task both nations have to create an atmosphere of “strong understanding and interdependencies” in the region to achieve collective progress and prosperity.

Kumar also stressed the need to further strengthen bilateral parliamentary linkages, with the first meeting of the India–Maldives Parliamentary Friendship Group being held during the Maldives delegation visit, acting as a “step in the right direction”.

The Maldivian government was urged to take measures for establishing investor confidence in the country as well as conduct structural reforms to prevent harassment and improve living conditions for the nearly 30,000 strong Indian expatriate workforce.

Shahid assured Kumar that the Maldives would work closely with India for the mutual benefit of both nations and extended an invitation for the India’s parliamentary speaker to visit the Maldives.

“Electoral background discouraging”: Transparency report

The 2013 presidential elections are set to unfold “against a context of uncertainty, crises of political legitimacy and unprecedented levels of political polarisation,” Transparency Maldives has stated, in an extensive pre-election assessment published on March 28.

The detailed report identifies key challenges in the lead up to the election, such as the candidacy of former President Mohamed Nasheed, lack of monitoring of campaign financing, an extensive and entrenched culture of vote buying, and a media establishment set on fueling personality politics and further polarisation.

The ECM said in mid-March it had noticed a surge of discrepancies on membership forms submitted by certain political parties including forged documents, forms with false information and even forms filed under the names of dead people.

“Buy-offs and civic education” challenges: ECI

The current ECM visit to India is part of a joint assistance project agreed upon in early-March during ECI’s eight day visit to the Maldives to study the electoral environment in an effort to enable free and fair elections.

During the ECI’s visit, they identified areas the ECM needs to develop and improve. These included: staff shortages, training needs, and the lack of information technology software. Vote buying is another important issue being addressed, the ECM’s President Fuad Thaufeeq previously explained to Minivan News.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, India’s Deputy Election Commissioner Dr Alok Shukla said that preventing voter “buy-offs” and improving civic education were two “big” challenges about which the ECM was “extremely concerned”.


Military consolidation expected to dominate Defence Minister Nazim’s India visit

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim is expected to commence talks today with his Indian counterpart on strengthening military ties between the two nations.  The talks will be the most senior meeting of ministers between the two countries since reports of bilateral tensions earlier this year, according to the Times of India.

As part of his visit to India, Nazim is expected to meet with Indian Defence Minister Shri A K Anthony to discuss establishing further defence collaboration, as well as the possibility of extending Indian coastal radar systems across the Maldives.

Nazim’s visit comes after Defence Minister Anthony travelled to the Maldives last year to open the ‘SenaHiya’ Military Hospital in Male’, where he spoke of expanding cooperation on naval security and preventing drug trafficking.

The ceremony in September 2012, was held at a time when international media was playing up a perceived strengthening of relations between the Maldives and China, drawing attention to the potential geopolitical implications for neighbouring India.

According to the Times of India, Nazim is the first senior government minister to visit the India since the country was accused of becoming embroiled in the Maldives’ domestic politics earlier this year.

Both Nazim and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls from Minivan News as time of press.

Reported tensions

Back in February, Maldives political figures from several government-aligned parties criticised the Indian High Commission after former President Nasheed was allowed to seek refuge on its premises from police seeking to present him to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Nasheed remained in the high commission’s chancery building on Sosun Magu in Male’ for 11 consecutive days, maintaining that charges against him for detaining a chief Criminal Court Judge were a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for this year.

Indian officials at the time rejected accusations of taking sides in the country’s domestic affairs, maintaining that India only favoured “inclusive elections”.

After Nasheed was allowed into the building, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel implied through social media that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs, stating at the time: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters”.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, allow Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

Just a month before Nasheed went into the high commission building, Maldivian authorities denied that the country’s foreign minister had been snubbed by the Indian government after it rejected an official request to meet.

The reported snub came as Maldivian local media were issued a list of 11 grievances from the Indian High Commission concerning the treatment of Indian nationals in the country.

“Unshakable” relationship

However, the new Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare last week emphasised the “unshakable” long-standing relationship between between both countries during a meeting with local media (April 10).

Shahare at the time stressed there had been no change in the relationship between the Maldives and India, despite media reports of increased tension between both nations.

“In any relationship there are highs and lows, but the relationship carries on its course normally,” he said.  “Engagement between the Maldives and India has been constant. We are pretty much on course.”


New Indian High Commissioner emphasises “unshakable” relationship with the Maldives

The new Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare has emphasised the “unshakable” long-standing relationship between between both countries during a meeting with local media yesterday (April 10).

The new commissioner, who speaks fluent Arabic, previously served in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Geneva, Mauritius, as well as held the position of Joint Secretary in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’, West Asia North Africa division.

Shahare presented his credentials to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik yesterday morning, before later discussing his initial observations on the country with local media.

“It is a great honour and privilege to represent the government of India in a country such as the Maldives. With its azure blue and turquoise water, this is a phenomenal God-gifted country,” he stated during yesterday’s media event.

“During my tenure, I will endeavor to further strengthen the relationship between India and the Maldives, which is already very strong with an unshakable foundation.”

“Highs and lows”

Shahare also stressed there had been no change in the relationship between the Maldives and India, despite media reports of increased tension between both nations in recent months.

“In any relationship there are highs and lows, but the relationship carries on its course normally,” he said.

“Engagement between the Maldives and India has been constant. We are pretty much on course.”

Shahare emphasised that the Maldives held a “special place in the hearts of Indians” given the deep historical ties, common language and ethnic background the countries share.

“India is home for many Maldivians, we share a strong ethnic affinity,” he said.

He claimed that India would continue to support the Maldives and provide for the country’s needs when requested.

“India has always been there for the Maldives. It is in a state of readiness to provide whatever the Maldives requires,” Shahare stated.

Shahare also thanked the Maldivian government for arranging the ceremony “in record time”, praising local authorities for their “magnanimity” in allowing him to meet senior government officials prior to presenting his credentials to the president.

Shahare has replaced former Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay, who left the Maldives last month to take the position as India’s Consul in New York.

Earlier this week, Mulay told the Times of India publication: “there is no expert on the Maldives in India and awareness regarding the country and its geopolitical situation is very low.”

He also emphasised the importance of understanding Maldivian political, economic and social changes which “may have a major impact on India”.

Referring to the large number of Chinese tourists outstripping Indian visits to the Maldives, Mulay stressed that “One must be aware about the clout of a country from which there is such a big tourist inflow”.

Mulay also discussed the “commensurate increase in the points of connectivity between the two countries”, adding that Indian investments in the Maldives are increasing.

Diplomatic strain

The Maldives’ relationship with India has appeared strained since the Waheed government’s decision last November to evict Indian infrastructure giant GMR from the country with seven days notice.

The US$511 concession agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport was declared ‘void from the start’.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission this January.

The list of Consular issues affecting the India-Maldives relationship included a number of concerns: discrimination against Indian expatriates, the keeping of passports of Indian nationals by employers, exploitation of Indian workers and repatriation of mortal remains.  Threats towards the country’s diplomats, a disparity in visa charges between the two countries and the repatriation of salaries were also raised as issues.

The list’s release was followed by the Indian High Commission issuing a statement in early February slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.

“The High Commission has noted a recent trend in a section of local media to publish negative, unsubstantiated reports, while blacking out objective and positive news on Indian issues,” the Commission said at the time.

Shortly thereafter, political parties supporting the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan criticised the Indian High Commission for allowing former President Mohamed Nasheed to seek refuge inside its protected diplomatic territory for 11 days.

The Adhaalath Party (AP) later condemned the Indian High Commission and the Indian government “for assisting a criminal fleeing from trial”.

The AP was also a vocal opponent of GMR and the concession agreement signed by the previous government to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. During one of the party’s rallies last year, several senior government figures mocked and insulted the former Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay calling him a “traitor to the Maldives”.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed also expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to Nasheed in the Indian High Commission. He said that attempts by any country to prevent a person from facing charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General (PG), could be described as interfering domestic matters of a sovereign state, local media reported.

Following Nasheed’s exit from the High Commission and subsequent arrest on March 5, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted “free, fair and credible” elections as the “best course” for overcoming political uncertainty in the Maldives.


China donates 250,000 energy efficient LED lights to the Maldives

China’s National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) donated 250,000 LED tube lights, amounting to 24 million Chinese Yuan (US$3,869,345), to the Maldivian government to assist with combating negative climate change impacts, reports local media.

The energy efficient LED lights were donated as part of China’s provision of goods to address climate change program.

The Maldives Minister of Environment and Energy, Dr Mariyam Shakeela received the donation presented by China’s NDRC Deputy Director, Mr Meng Xiangyue, on April 1.

Shakeela told Sun Online the lights will be distributed to various islands and the reduced power consumption will save a large percentage of money.

“This is a gratis donation to us from the Chinese Government. We will distribute the lights to all islands in the country. How we will go about this will be announced at a later date,” stated Shakeela.

Shakeela also stated this Chinese government assistance to replace inefficient lights will “play a tremendous role” in reducing electricity demands.

She further “expressed hope” this donation would further strengthen the bilateral relationship between the Maldives and China, in addition to combating climate change impacts.

Bilateral talks between the two governments were held following the donation ceremony to further strengthen climate change cooperation, as well as “discuss approaches, areas and mechanisms for future cooperation,” reads the Ministry of Environment and Energy news statement.


India says Maldives must rein in quarters harming bilateral ties: Times of India

“Amid a diplomatic row over cancellation of the GMR contract, India on Friday asked Maldives to control any quarters which may be trying to harm bilateral relations saying the issue should not put a ‘question mark’ on the ties between the two sides, “ according to the Times of India newspaper.

“If they have to take a decision in interest of their society and country and if that decision is taken properly as per laws there, what objections can anyone have there. We would want that whatever is the decision, it should not put any question marks on our friendly relations,” external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said.  The minister was asked to comment on the developments in the GMR issue outside Parliament house complex.

“If any quarters there (in Maldives) want that our relations should be harmed, then they should be controlled. I think Maldives and its people know this thing properly and I am sure that they will do the same thing,” Khurshid said.

Asked if the Indian Government would ‘intervene’ in the issue, the minister said: ‘For commercial enterprises no one intervenes, but we have been assured about the security and safety of our citizens and interests there.

To that extent, it is our right and we have also told them about this right.’ ‘On the commercial discussions, we don’t have the right and there is no justification for it. Try to understand the issue in right context and I think there is nothing to worry about,’ he said.”

Read more.


Ambassador of Philippines says farewell to the Maldives

Ambassador of the Philippines to the Maldives, Zenaida Tacordo Rabago, paid her farewell call to President Mohamed Nasheed today at the President’s Office.

President Nasheed thanked Tacordo Rabago for her contribution in strengthening the ties between both countries.

They discussed enhancing bilateral relations further, especially on mutually concerning issues such as climate change.