President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the first lady madam Fathmath Ibrahim have received a warm welcome from Indian counterpart Sri Pranab Mukherjee at the Presidential Residence Rashtrapati Bhavan today with a twenty-one gun salute and guard of honor.
Yameen, accompanied by a high level delegation arrived in New Delhi on 1 January and is to continue the visit till 4 January.
The president and his delegation has also met External Affairs Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary and Finance Minster.
Maldives delegation includes Jumhooree Party leader MP Qasim Ibrahim, leader of Maldives Development Aalliance MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, President Yameen’s niece Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, his nephew State Minister for Youth and Sports Ghassan Maumoon, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, Minister at Presidents Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, Health Minister Dr. Mariyam Shakeela.
Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh met with Yameen today and discussed mutual cooperation between the two countries at bilateral, sub-regional and regional levels.
Dr. Singh congratulated the President and the people of Maldive following the peaceful and smooth transition of power with the presidential elections.
The key areas of discussion between the two leaders were security cooperation, trade and developmental assistance, connectivity, consular issues and cooperation at regional and international levels.
Easing of visa and construction material restrictions
A mutual agreement was reached on addressing the concerns of citizens of both countries regarding consular and visa issues. Bringing an end to the Maldivian concerns on visa restrictions imposed in 2012, India agreed to provide visa free entry for Maldivians traveling to the country for medical purposes and to ease restrictions with regards to re-entry within two months. India also agreed to waiver restrictions on importing stone aggregates from India.
Both countries also agreed to give land from Male’ and Delhi for the construction of High Commission buildings of each country. A Memorandum of Agreement for allotment of plot to the High Commission of Maldives was signed at the meeting.
Trade and Development
In terms of trade and development, a mutual understanding was reached on compiling a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in the near future.
Responding to a request from the Maldives, India agreed to export diesel, petrol and aviation fuel to Maldives and requested concerned authorities from both countries to meet proceed with necessary arrangements to make it possible.
Economic cooperation in food security, fisheries , tourism, transportation, information technology,, communications and renewable energy was discussed. With regards to the banking and financial sector, improving credit and insurance facilities and assistance in the establishment of development finance institutions was discussed.
India agreed to release USD 25 million Standby Credit Facility for imports from India and assured the continued support in development projects of Maldives.
Specific projects discussed include the Maldives Police Academy, Composite Training Centre for MNNDF and the renovation of Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).
An MOU on cooperation in the field of Health and Exchange of Letters on extending the MoU on Manpower requirements of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital was signed between the two countrie in the presence of the two leaders.
Establishment of the Joint Consultative Commission in 2014 under the Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development between India and Maldives was also agreed upon.
The agreement signed in 2011 by President Mohamed Nasheed includes mutual cooperation in trade, investment investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism, transportation, information technology, renewable energy, communications and connectivity.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, with whom the president met earlier today, said chosing India for Yameen’s for official overseas visit gave a strong message to the people and businessmen of India. President Yameen said that Maldives is open for mega investors from India.
The two leaders agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in issues of common concern such as maritime piracy, terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking. and human trafficking. They also agreed to increase cooperation in providing training and capacity building of Maldives National Defense Force and Maldives Police Service.
They expressed the need for strengthening maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean region with joint patrolling, aerial and maritime survilance, information exchange and developing an effective legal framework against piracy.
President Yameen also met Indian National Security Advisor Shri Shivshankar Menon and Joint Secretarty Harsh Vardhan Shringla, to ay and discussed bilateral security cooperation. Menon discussed regional security and assured providing India’s assistance in areas of defense and policing. President Yameen noted bilateral relations with India was bolstered during his half-brother President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration.
The leaders agreed to enhance connectivity by air and sea between Kochin (India) and Male’ City (Maldives) and other destinations as under the Air Services Agreement between Maldives and India. The leaders discussed starting direct flights between Male’ and Mumbai/Delhi as soon as possible.
Cooperation at regional and international level
Mutual commitment was expressed for UN Security Council early reform, including the representation of geopolitical realities int permanent and non-permanent seats of the Council.
Maldives reiterated the support for India’s bid to win a permanent seat at the council. Both showed support for their bids at non-permanent seats of the council, Maldives for 2019-2020 term and India for 2021 – 2022 term.
Both leaders highlighted the need to strengthen and reform multilateral financial institutions and increased participation of developing countries in global economic decision-making.
The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in strengthening the SAARC and promoting regional cooperation.
President Yameen, in his meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh assured that India’s priorities will be priorities for the Maldives as well.
The President’s visit was prompted by an invitation from the Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee in November 2013, soon after his inauguration. Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim visited India last month, responding to an invitation extended by his counterpart AK Anthony.
Traditional and long standing bilateral relations between India and Maldives were strained under President Dr. Mohamed Waheed following the controversial power transfer of February 2011 and the premature cancellation of Indian Infrastructure company GMR’s $511 million airport project in 2012.
President Abdullah Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) lead by his half-brother former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also a coalition partner in Waheed’s government. However since Yameen’s inauguration last November, the brothers have expressed an essential and urgent need to improve Indo-Maldives relations.