India is our closest partner, no change in policy: Maldives

The office of Abdullah Yameen reacted to ex-President Mohamed Nasheed’s remarks on the country’s ‘pro-China tilt’. —FILE PHOTO: AFP  

The present Maldivian government’s China policy does not interfere with or diminish the country’s “special relationship” with India, according to the office of President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

On the observations made by former president Mohamed Nasheed in London on Monday regarding his country's “pro-China” tilt, Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, international spokesperson at the President’s office, told The Hindu over the phone from Male on Tuesday that “our President [Mr. Gayoom] has said this several times: India is our closest partner in terms of diplomatic and political relations.

“We are committed to working together with India to expand the current level of political and economic cooperation relationship to higher level.”

Pointing out that while the President was forging ahead with “a highly ambitious economic agenda that includes developmental and infrastructure undertakings where China is a partner”, Mr. Shihab said: “We would work closely with India in safeguarding the regional safety and security.” He added that his country was always appreciative of the role played by India in protecting the interests of Maldives, both domestically and internationally.

The position of the Maldivian government had been conveyed by Mr. Gayoom in his discussions with Indian leaders and officials on their visit to the Maldives, the latest being S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign secretary, Mr. Shihab added. Mr. Nasheed, who was in jail, was allowed to travel to the U.K. on medical reasons.

Earlier, the government had expressed its “profound disappointment” over what it called the denial of entry to a member of its London High Commission to attend Mr. Nasheed’s London press conference on Monday.