Indian PM Modi’s visit unaffected by Nasheed arrest, says Foreign Minister

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied rumors Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may cancel a visit to the Maldives following the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday.

“I do not believe that the internal affairs of Maldives will affect the relationship between both the countries and that it will influence any planned official visits,” Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told the press today.

She said India and Maldives are continuing discussions on arrangements for Modi’s visit scheduled for the second week of March, and said details of the visit will be revealed after discussions.

She also denied rumors alleging China may provide military assistance to the government in dealing with the protests that have erupted after the opposition leader’s arrest.


Indian state employees granted travel concessions on trips to Maldives

India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation will provide leave travel concessions (LTC) for state employees travelling to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal in an effort to boost regional tourism among SAARC member nations, reports The Financial Express.

State employees will require approval from the ministry in order to utilise the LTC on Air India when flying to the selected countries.

Senior government officials were reported as saying the move is expected to enhance tourism, and subsequently economic development, in the South Asian region.

“There are around two million government employees. With the extension of the LTC scheme there is bound to be greater tourist inflow and outflow with these countries,” an Indian government official is quoted as saying.

Air India currently operates 14 flights to the Maldives per week – between Malé, Trivandrum, and Bangalore – although Indian tourists make up less than four percent of the million-plus visitors to the Indian Ocean archipelago each year.

During the 18th SAARC Summit held in Nepal last November Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the need for increased regional connectivity noting that “it is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore, and more expensive to speak to each other”.

The conclusion of the summit saw the signing of the Kathmandu Declaration which called ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’.


India – Maldives Friendship Festival kicks off

The India – Maldives Friendship Festival kicked off on July 25 with a cricket tournament between SAARC countries.

The three-week long festival – organised by the India Club Maldives in association with the High Commission of India in Malé and the Friendship Association of India-Maldives – runs from the Independence Day of the Maldives, July 26, to the Independence Day of India, August 15.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh competed in the first match on July 25. The final match is scheduled for August 1 at Malé Ekuveni Stadium.

The festival also includes a friendship walk on August 8 and a cultural evening and magic show at the Olympus Theatre on August 12.

“It is hoped that the festival would help further strengthen people to people interaction between both the friendly countries,” the India Club Maldives said.


Indian Chief of Army Staff to visit Maldives

India’s Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh will arrive in Maldives tomorrow on a two-day official visit. During the visit he will hold official bilateral talks with Maldives’ Chief of Defence force Major General Ahmed Shiyam.

He is also expected to pay courtesy visits to President Abdulla Yameen and Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim.

General Singh’s  predecessor Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor also visited the Maldives in February 2010.


President Yameen’s India visit postponed

President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to India – his first official trip overseas – has been postponed, his Press Secretary Ibrahim Muaz Ali has today confirmed .

An official date for the trip is yet to be revealed. However, Indian newspaper ‘The Hindu’ has reported that it will be delayed until next year. According to the paper, the reason is that Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s will be absent from the capital from 20 December till next year.

President Yameen’s visit was prompted by an Invitation from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November, in reply to a letter expressing the President Yameen’s determination to strengthen bilateral relations with India.

Yameen’s trip comes as he attempts to improve the recently-strained Indo-Maldives relationship. As a prelude to the President’s visit, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim took an official trip to India from 11-15 December, responding to an invitation from his counterpart.


Defense minister returns from India with gifts and reassurances

Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has returned from his five day official visit to India bearing gifts and reassurances of better defense cooperation and hope for improved bilateral relations.

A major highlight of the trip was India’s gift to Maldives military, a locally manufactured ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH). The Helicopter the second India has gifted – will reach Maldives in two months.

India also assured the delivery of a landing craft within this period – promised during Nazim’s previous visit to India as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Defence minister. During that visit, nine months ago, India promised seven new radar systems, in addition to three radar systems India had already gifted to the Maldives.

Nazim also addressed specific issues of concern that had emerged during the previous administration’s period of weakened ties with India.

The shortage of construction material imported from India following a special quota for Maldives being revoked in February 2013, and the difficulties in acquiring medical Visa for Maldivians traveling to India were discussed.

Both issues will be discussed further during President Yameen’s official visit to India early next year.

Nazim’s visit – from 11-15 December – was prompted by an invitation from his counterpart AK Anthony. During the visit, Nazim met many senior government officials, amongst them Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde, Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.

Nazim requested Indian assistance to acquire equipment and training for disaster management and fire and rescue services – a coast guard vessel for patrolling the Maldives’ EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and an auxiliary vessel to improve logistical support across the country.

Training opportunities were also sought in other areas such as aviation security, pilot training, air traffic control training, MBBS and specialist medical training.

During the visit, the Maldives defense minister informed Indian officials of the progress of the Composite Training Center being constructed at Maafilaafushi (Lhaviyani Atoll) with Indian financial assistance.  A ten-story building for the Coast Guard and the Ministry of Defense and National Security also is all set to be built at the current Coast Guard Building’s location with Indian grant aid.

Apart from improving the military, Nazim’s main focus during the visit was on health security, especially regarding the development of MNDF’s ‘Senahiya’ military hospital – officially inaugurated by Indian Defense minister in September 2012.

Nazim sought Indian assistance in getting medical equipment such as CT scan and MRI machines for the hospital. India also agreed to deputise Indian Armed Forces medical specialists to Senahiya and other regions of Maldives in a near future.

Training of MNDF medical specialists was also discussed, while the Indian defense minister announced the opportunity for MNDF personnel to be treated for major surgeries and serious illnesses at India’s armed forces medical institutions