Will Be Sensitive Towards Strategic Concerns Of India, Says Maldives

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid today.

New Delhi:

Maldives today said it will be sensitive towards India's security and strategic concerns as the two countries vowed to bring back momentum in their ties which came under severe strain during the previous government in Male.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid in New Delhi today and asserted that India attaches highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives. She told the visiting minister that India stands ready to "fully support" the new government in Male.

A joint statement issued after the talks said Mr Shahid reiterated his government's "India First" policy and conveyed that his government looked forward to working closely with India on all issues.

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It said President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will visit India on December 17 and both the ministers held wide consultations to lay the groundwork for the trip.

India-Maldives ties deteriorated significantly under the rule of Abdulla Yameen who was perceived to be close to China and there were concerns in India over growing Chinese influence in Male.

President Solih, as the opposition candidate, had a surprise victory over Yameen in the presidential election held on September 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended President Solih's oath-taking ceremony on November 17.

"Abdulla Shahid reiterated his government's 'India First' policy and said that his government looks forward to working closely with the government of India on all issues," the joint statement said

It said he reaffirmed Maldives' special, close and friendly relations with India and also reiterated that the government of Maldives will be sensitive towards India's security and strategic concerns.

"She (Sushma Swaraj) said that in line with Government of India's Neighbourhood First policy, India stands ready to fully support the Government of Maldives in its socio-economic development," the statement said.

The two sides also discussed security and defence matters including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation. They agreed to hold the next meeting of the defence cooperation dialogue next month.

"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 needs to be encouraged to play a leading role," said the statement.

Officials said India assured Maldives of support in implementing its development priorities and in ensuring fiscal and budgetary stability.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar described the meeting between Swaraj and Shahid as "warm and productive" and said it focused on bilateral cooperation and ensuring peace and security in the region.

In the meeting, Swaraj welcomed Maldives' decision to rejoin the Commonwealth and expressed India's support for it.

The Maldivian foreign minister invited Swaraj to pay a bilateral visit to his country to which she agreed.

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