EAM Swaraj arrives in Maldives for 2-day state visit

Male [Maldives]: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Male on Sunday for a 2-day visit to the island nation.

Swaraj is on an official state visit to the Maldives on March 17 and 18 at the invitation of her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid. She will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and other senior officials, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Swaraj will hold a bilateral meeting with Shahid during her visit. She will also participate in delegation-level meetings with the Minister of Defence Mariya Ahmed Didi, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Aishath Nahula, Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Yumna Maumoon, Minister of Environment, Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, and Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail.

“The ministers will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations and discuss the future programme of action,” a statement put out by the MEA said.

On March 17, Swaraj is slated to call on Speaker of the Parliament Qasim Ibrahim. On the second day of her visit, she will call on Maldives’ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Maldives’ Minister of Home Affairs Sheikh Imran Abdulla will also meet the Indian External Affairs Minister.

“India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity,” the MEA statement said.

Swaraj’s visit to the Maldives is aimed at strengthening the “close and friendly relations” between the two nations, after ties between New Delhi and Male came under strain during former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s five-year rule, which saw him cosying up with China for various development projects, cracking down on dissent and imposing a state of emergency by jailing opposition leaders.

Moreover, there were several diplomatic issues under the Yameen government with many Indian nationals being reportedly denied visas.

Solih’s surprise victory in the Maldives presidential elections in last September came as a major diplomatic victory for India after New Delhi repeatedly warned the Yameen government to respect democratic institutions and free the jailed opposition leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the island nation for Solih’s swearing-in ceremony in November last year. During the visit, Solih briefed the Prime Minister about Maldives’ fragile economic situation.

The two leaders discussed ways in which India can continue development partnership in various sectors, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives.

During Solih’s visit to India in December last year, New Delhi announced financial assistance of USD 1.4 billion to Male in the form of budgetary support, currency swap and concessional lines of credit to fulfill the socio-economic development programmes of the island nation.