New Delhi, Male reiterate commitment to expand ties
MALE: India and Maldives on Tuesday reiterated their commitment to expand cooperation, with the new government of President Mohammed Nasheed seeking assistance to meet the economic challenges the country faces.
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, who attended the swearing-in of Mr. Nasheed, assured him India would extend continued support and cooperation.
India’s traditional cultural and friendly relations with the people of Maldives were reiterated in the meetings he had here with both Mr. Nasheed and his counterpart Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who too took the oath of office in an impressive ceremony attended also by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Both Mr. Nasheed and Mr. Hassan mentioned the serious economic difficulties the government faced in the form of reserves. Briefing correspondents, Dinesh Kumar Jain, Special Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, said while no specific request was made, the Vice-President conveyed that New Delhi would extend help and, if required, on an urgent basis.
Mr. Nasheed suggested India’s cooperation be extended in the fields of energy, science and technology and information technology.
The Maldivian leaders invited investment by the Indian private sector and said they planned to privatise health, education and transport system. They said Indian companies should participate when Maldives threw open the process for international bidding.
They thanked India for continued support and recognised the contribution of the Indian community both in the social and economic development of Maldives. There are about 25,000 Indians in the country, mainly in healthcare, education and hospitality industries, according to High Commissioner A.K. Pandey.
Ansari meets Gayoom
The Vice-President also called on the outgoing President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. India recognises that Mr. Gayoom played a key part in the peaceful and democratic transition. Mr. Pandey said many people in Maldives regard him as the author of democracy and architect of India-Maldives relations.
Asked on reports of China’s increasing strategic presence in this island-nation, he said there was no substance behind such reports.
Asked how India viewed China donating funds to build infrastructure in Maldives, he said New Delhi was better positioned to build infrastructure in Maldives. Beijing is interested in establishing a presence while Male is clear that it is to be limited to economic development.
It was a holiday in the country on the occasion of Republic Day. On the eve of the historic transition of power in three decades, Male witnessed spontaneous celebrations in various parts. Citizens held community dinners with music in festooned lanes of the capital city.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Nasheed thanked the people for having spoken so well and remarked that it was rare for people to achieve democratic transition as smoothly and as peacefully as had been done in Maldives.
He observed that Maldives cannot arrive at its destination without “recourse to the wisdom gained through our experiences in the past. No flowers will bloom, no birds will chirp and no butterflies will flutter in the flames of hatred, jealously and rancour.”