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Maldives reaffirms commitment to ‘India First’ policy

She said that in line with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India was ready to fully support the Maldives in its socio-economic development.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The new Ibrahim Mohamed Solih government in the Maldives on Monday conveyed to New Delhi its firm commitment to ‘India First’ policy and reiterated that it would be sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns.

At a meeting here with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, new Foreign Minister of the Maldives Shahid Abdulla said his government looked forward to working closely with New Delhi on all issues while reaffirming the archipelago’s special, close and friendly relations with India.

Shahid is on a four-day visit to India, his first overseas trip after assuming office earlier this month. He is accompanied by Maldives Finance Minister Fayaaz Ismail, Maldives Minister of Economic Development Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Khaleel and Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohammed.

The two foreign ministers agreed that Maldives President Solih, would visit India on 17 December, exactly a month after he took oath of office in Male. In this regard, both ministers held wide consultations to lay the groundwork for the visit, the External Affairs Ministry said.

Swaraj told the visiting minister that India attached the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which was marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity. She said that in line with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India was ready to fully support the Maldives in its socio-economic development.

Swaraj welcomed the Maldives’ decision to rejoin the Commonwealth and expressed India’s support for it. She also welcomed the Maldives into the Indian Ocean Rim Association as its newest member.

Both sides held discussions on how to strengthen the development partnership between the two countries. India assured the Maldives of support in implementing its development priorities and in ensuring fiscal and budgetary stability.

The two ministers recognised that, given the historical and cultural links between both countries, people-to-people contact between them was important. In this regard, they agreed to hold the meeting of the bilateral consular dialogue at the earliest.

The two ministers also discussed security and defence matters including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation. In this regard, they agreed to hold the next meeting of the defence cooperation dialogue between both countries in the first half of December 2018.

They also discussed ways and means to expand and diversify the bilateral economic and commercial relations. In this regard, they agreed that the private sector needed to be encouraged to play a leading role.

Swaraj accepted the Maldivian minister’s invitation to visit his country. They also decided to hold the next meeting of the joint commission at the level of foreign ministers at the earliest.