Male, Oct 11 (IANS) India and the Maldives discussed cooperation in defence and security, trade and connectivity and health among other issues during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here for the 5th Joint Commission meeting.
Sushma Swaraj was in the Maldives on October 10-11 to co-chair the 5th Meeting of the India-Maldives Joint Commission.
She called on President Abdulla Yameen during which the talks “were reflective of the privileged” nature of the bilateral relationship.
Sushma Swaraj emphasised the Indian government’s policy of “neighbours first”, as Yameen underscored the need to cement India-Maldives relations further, said an official statement.
Yameen conveyed that Maldives would hold an Investment Forum in India in 2016, which is also the ‘Visit Maldives’ year. He reiterated the Maldives’ policy of ‘India First’.
Subsequent to the Joint Commission, Sushma Swaraj had meetings with Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed and Minister of Health Irthisham Adam.
During her visit, Sushma Swaraj also had an interaction with the Indian community at the India-Maldives Friendship Faculty for Hospitality and Tourism Studies.
In their discussions during the Joint Commission meeting, Sushma Swaraj and Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon reviewed the entire gamut of the relationship.
These discussions held special significance not only because the Joint Commission was meeting after 15 years but also because the meeting took place in the year of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and the Maldives.
Discussions took place in an atmosphere of traditional warmth and friendship, mutual respect and sensitivity to each others’ interests, which have characterised the vibrant and robust relations between the two nations.
The defence and security relationship was part of the forward looking discussions in the Joint Commission for the first time. Ongoing cooperation was reviewed and future requirements were discussed.
India-Maldives defence cooperation includes, inter-alia, the construction of a Composite Training Centre for the Maldivian National Defence Forces, joint patrolling, training programmes for MNDF officers in India, medical camps, joint exercises, etc, the statement said.
The Maldivian side acknowledged the usefulness of the Advanced Light Helicopter given by India in the development of aviation capacities in the Maldives.
India welcomed the participation of the Maldives in the next Dosti Exercise in Goa later this month.
The ministers were of the view that the bilateral partnership was important also for maintaining security in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Joint Commission discussions endorsed enhancement of trade and investment ties and the development partnership between the countries.
It proposed establishment of a Joint Business Forum and suggested that an investment oriented forum be part of the calendar for 2016.
The Maldivian side reiterated their interest in engaging with private investors in India for iHavan and Hulhulmale Youth City projects.
Sectors such as tourism, fisheries, education, IT, infrastructure development, energy cooperation including renewable energy, and traditional medicine were identified for future cooperation.
Both countries agreed to sign agreements at the earliest on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Information Exchange.
They agreed to also consider the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement for early finalisation.
Bilateral collaboration in the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) was reviewed.
It was agreed to strengthen tele-medicine linkages between IGMH and PGI, Chandigarh and expand the number of speciality hospitals in India available to Maldivian nationals under the Aasandha scheme.
The Maldivian side requested Indian assistance to set up a state-of the-art National Diagnostic Centre in the Maldives.
There was agreement on continuing the training of health professionals of the Maldives and to agree on the deputation of Indian specialist doctors to IGMH.
Both sides agreed to create a framework for cooperation in the area of traditional medicine.
The Maldivian side welcomed the joint initiative to establish an e-Library for Maldivian schools and the Indian initiative to establish a Hindi language Chair at the Maldives National University.
Consular matters and community issues were also reviewed.
The Indian side welcomed the ratification by the Maldives of the Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
Both sides agreed on an early finalisation to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in criminal matters.
The Joint Commission welcomed the signing of the MoU between the Foreign Service Institutes of India and the Maldives and the MoU on Youth Affairs and Sports on the sidelines of the Joint Commission.
The Maldives also apprised India of progress in its internal processes for joining the Agreement on Orbit Frequency Coordination for the Satellite for the SAARC region.
The Maldives reiterated its strong support to India’s candidature as a permanent member of the UN Security Council
The next meeting of the India-Maldives Joint Commission would be in 2017 in India.
Both ministers — Sushma Swaraj and Dunya Maumoon — have tasked their officials to hold a review meeting in 2016, preparatory to the next Joint Commission, the statement said.