Visiting Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, however, said his new government would try to look into the GMR issue in a “broad sense”
India on Thursday offered Maldives an enhanced security grid, more defence equipment as well as subsidised petroleum in return for greater investment opportunities to its companies which have had a rough time in the island nation of late.
However, there was no forthright word from the visiting President Abdulla Yameen on settling disputes beyond an assurance that his new government would try to amicably resolve the row over the biggest project — the $500-million investment proposal by the Indian company GMR —- in a “broad sense.”
The relationship between the two countries suffered a setback soon after the resignation of the then President Mohd. Nasheed in February 2012 because his successor, Mohd. Waheed scrapped the GMR project for modernising and managing the Male airport. There was no resolution of the issue even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to the then President, who had assured him that the dispute would be resolved.
Instead, the subsequent period saw anti-India propaganda by groups supporting Mr. Waheed in office as well as issues entangling some other projects being pushed by India Inc. On Thursday, at a meeting with business people, Mr. Yameen described the GMR case as a “politicised” one and hoped that “before we are through with arbitration, we will be able to mutually resolve this matter.”
Despite these difficulties, India is hopeful of a reinvigorated relationship with Maldives, said officials, while referring to Dr. Singh’s media statement in which he described cooperation between the two countries as “indispensable” for their maritime security and essential for promoting peace in the Indian Ocean Region.
In an indication of the problems being faced by Indian corporates, Dr. Singh said he wanted to see a balanced growth in bilateral trade which is heavily skewed in India’s favour. One option was to increase Indian investments which would also contribute to expansion of economic relations. “In this context, I requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some of our investors are facing,” he said.
Dr. Singh offered a standby credit facility of $25 million to Maldives for imports from India and agreed to meet the island country’s requirement for petroleum products. India also agreed to step up the pace of work on some projects, and was offered a plot in land-challenged Male for High Commission premises.
The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in the health sector and extended an MoU on meeting manpower requirements at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male.
Dr. Singh stressed the need for the two countries to be vigilant against terrorism and wanted them to “share the firm commitment” to be sensitive to each other's concerns and not allow their territories to be used by “any inimical quarters.”
The two leaders agreed on initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation through training, supply of equipment, capacity building, joint patrolling and aerial and maritime surveillance. They decided to deepen trilateral maritime security ties with Sri Lanka.
“We look forward to expanding it to other countries in the Indian Ocean. India is ready to provide further assistance and support to Maldives in strengthening our collective ability to address our shared security challenges,” the Prime Minister said.