Maldives President to visit India next month

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New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended his swearing in, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will visit India, marking a new thrust in the relations between the two countries.

This was decided during discussions on Monday between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and visiting Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid.

“The Foreign Ministers agreed that the state visit of President Solih to India will take place on December 17, 2018. In this regard, both ministers held wide consultations to lay the groundwork for this visit,” an External Affairs Ministry release said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended the swearing-in ceremony of Solih on November 17 and was the senior-most foreign leader to attend the ceremony in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation that went through immense political turmoil under former President Abdulla Yameen.

The two sides discussed security and defence matters including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation and agreed to hold the next meeting of the Defence Cooperation Dialogue in the first-half of December 2018.

They also discussed ways and means to expand and diversify the bilateral economic and commercial relations and agreed that the private sector needs to be encouraged to play a leading role.

They agreed to hold the meeting of the bilateral consular dialogue at the earliest recognising that people-to-people contact between both countries is important.

During the meeting, Shahid spoke of his government’s “India First” policy and said that his government looks forward to working closely with the Indian government. He said the Maldives will be sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns and reaffirmed his country’s “special, close and friendly relations” with India.

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

Sushma Swaraj said in line with the Indian government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, India stands ready to fully support the Maldivian government in its socio-economic development.

The Minister said that India accords highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by “trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity”.

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

Shahid invited Sushma Swaraj to pay a visit to the Maldives, which she agreed to. They also decided to hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers at the earliest.

Shahid is on a three-day visit to India. He is accompanied by Ministers of Finance and Economic Development of his country.

He will call on President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday. CII will host a business interaction meeting for the Minister and his delegation.

–IANS

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