Indian Prime Minister extends invitation to President Yameen

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom for an official visit.

The invitation comes in reply to a letter by Yameen to the prime minister in which he assured Singh of his administration’s desire for enhanced bilateral ties and urged Singh to pay an official visit to the Maldives as soon as it was mutually convenient to do so.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said Yameen has accepted the invitation, but a date has not yet been decided for the visit.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commissioner Rajiv Shahare paid a visit on the new Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, describing Indo-Maldivian ties as “privileged”.

The President’s Office noted that Jameel and Shahare took the opportunity to discuss the easing consular and visa restrictions for travelers between the two countries, as well as healthcare, defense cooperation, and human resource development.

Writing to  Singh, the President’s Office website reported Yameen as emphasising that “diverse Indo-Maldives people-to-people contact offers avenues for further cooperation”.

The Maldives’ traditionally close ties with India came under increasing strain under the previous government – of which the PPM was a prominent partner. The cancellation of a deal to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in December 2012 was a particularly contentious issue.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor was quickly followed by visa restrictions and a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January this year.

India has extended budget support aid to the Maldives on several occasions, most recently extending a Standby Credit Facility of US$ 100 million in 2008 and 2011 during President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure.

Minivan News understands the Government of Maldives is currently in discussion with India to secure further budget support to plug the 2014 budget deficit.

Yameen has said the Maldives economy is in a “deep pit” and has pledged to reduce state expenditure.

During a visit to India in June, former President and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told the Indian PM of his disappointment that the Maldives’ relationship with India had been impacted upon by the then-government’s decision to evict GMR from the country with seven days notice.

“This was a mistake. Had he consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Hindu.

The cancellation of the project is currently being investigated in a Singapore court of arbitration, with the Indian infrastructure company seeking US$1.4 billion in compensation – more than the Maldives’ annual budget.