New Delhi, Jan 2 (IANS) India and the Maldives Thursday agreed to “amicably resolve” all differences, including over cancellation of Indian company GMR’s contract to run Male International Airport, as visiting Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen held talks here with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the two sides inked three MoUs.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his talks he has requested the Maldives government to “amicably settle the issue of the Male International Airport”. The previous government of president Mohammed Waheed had cancelled the $500 million contract with Indian firm GMR for the airport in December 2012, leading to strain in ties.
President Yameen, who made his first visit to India after the November election in his country, said bilateral ties “may have had rough patches in the past, but it is the commitment of my administration and my council of ministers that we look forward to a strong, healthy working relationship with Indian enterprise.”
He reiterated in his speech: “We have had slight differences in the past, but we are committed to resolve all issues.”
The statement would be welcomed in India as Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was partner of the previous government which cancelled the contract, the largest FDI in Maldives, and summarily told the Indian firm to leave the nation in a week.
Yameen, the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — the autocrat who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for 30 years, said his maiden visit to India was an “accomplished visit” and was “deeply satisfied” with the agreements signed. He said the fact that he was spending New Year in India was indicative of the importance placed on ties with India.
Manmohan Singh said he congratulated the president and the people of Maldives for a successful election that has paved the way for “reconciliation, stability and continued economic progress”.
On boosting economic ties, the prime minister said he had “requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some of our investors are facing”.
India also extended a standby credit facility of $25 million to Maldives for imports from India and agreed to meet the requirement of petroleum products in Maldives.
Yameen voiced appreciation of India’s equidistant approach during the Maldives presidential election that had led to a political stand-off in the country.
Referring to the February 2012 ouster of then president Mohamed Nasheed, Yameen said India had come to the Waheed regime’s “rescue” and was the first country to acknowledge its legitimacy. “India has salvaged Maldivian reputation and regime at that time. India has always been mindful of Maldivians managing Maldivian internal politics,” he said.
After he was ousted, Nasheed had claimed it was orchestrated by Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and his then vice president Waheed.
“India has clearly shown that India recognises Maldives’ sovereignty and is supportive of our stance … and we want to show to the international community that Maldives can manage its own affairs,” Yameen said.
He said that while Maldives “wants to assure corporate India of the immense possibilities of his country, we are also mindful of the difficult times we had with Indian companies”. He said his government is “willing to work out a mutually acceptable solution. Both partners should be happy as a way to sustainable economic cooperation.”
India and the Maldives are to boost security and maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean. Yameen said both sides had agreed that the maritime security of the Indian Ocean is of utmost importance to both countries and the countries facing the region.
“So, it would be best left to countries in this region to resolve these matters. So, I have assured the Indian prime minister and the Indian Government that we share the views of Indian Government on this issue,” he said.
Both sides also agreed to address visa and consular concerns. India has agreed to allow visa-free entry for people from Maldives for medical purposes and removal of the restriction on re-entry within two months, which Maldives has been pressing for.
The three MoUs inked were on on health cooperation, for extending manpower requirement of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Maldives and one on allotment of plot of land in New Delhi to the High Commission of Maldives. Yameen also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Singh to visit Maldives.