Gayoom commends Yameen’s efforts to improve strained Indo-Maldives relations

Leader of the the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has commended President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to improve strained bilateral relations with India.

Speaking to local news agency Haveeru, Gayoom said the president’s official visit to India from 23-25 December will be a successful one and that he hopes India will make some “good arrangements” regarding issues of concern for Maldivians. He noted that he himself has talked on such issues with Indian officials he met, and that Maldivians need to lend a “friendly hand” to India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation for the visit came in reply to a letter reassuring the strengthening of relations with India under the new administration.

Meanwhile, Minister of Defense and National Security Colonel (ret.) Mohamed Nazim along with a senior military delegation is on an official visit to India, responding to an invitation from his Indian counterpart Mr A.K. Anthony.

According to the Ministry, Nazim will discuss Indian assistance in developing the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), the Senahiya Military Hospital, and for “boosting up” investments started with India’s help.

Defense cooperation between both countries was highlighted during the meeing. Four Indian military ships have visited and conducted joint military exercises in the Maldives within the past three months, whilst Indian newspaper “The Hindu” reports that India will gift a second Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH) during Nazim’s current visit.

The two defense ministers discussed increasing cooperation between the armed forces of both countries and  advancing medical facilities and expertise in the MNDF through training medical specialists and assigning Indian Armed Forces medical specialists. Indian defense minister announced that all MNDF personnel will now be eligible for treatment in Armed Forces medical institutions in India for major surgeries and for treatment of major and serious illnesses.

Under Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration – in which President Yameen’s PPM was a coalition member – bilateral relations with India were heavily damaged, particularly following the premature cancellation of Indian Infrastructure company GMR’s $511 million airport project in 2012.

A number of issues that might have affected the relations were highlighted by India, among them exploitation of Indian workers, discrimination, reopening of cases relating to sentenced Indian prisoners, visa fees charged from Indians, and the issue of dependent visa for old parents of Indian employees.

India later imposed restrictions in issuing medical visas for Maldivians, an issue Gayoom hopes will be resolved with the President’s first official trip overseas.