Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s statement to the media during the State Visit of President of Maldives to India
First, let me wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.
I am delighted to welcome President Abdulla Yameen on his first State Visit to our country. I had the pleasure of receiving him in Delhi in August last year and we are deeply honoured that he has chosen India as his first destination as President of Maldives. I can’t think of a more apt beginning to the New Year than to welcome back in our midst the newly elected President of a very close and friendly neighbor with whom we also share very vital interests.
In our discussions this morning, I congratulated President Yameen on his victory and the people of Maldives for a successful and peaceful election that has consolidated democracy in Maldives and paved the way for reconciliation, stability and continued economic and social progress.
As two close neighbours, the development aspirations and security interests of India and Maldives are closely linked. President Yameen and I agreed that our cooperation is indispensable for the maritime security of our two countries and essential for promoting peace, prosperity and security in the Indian Ocean Region. We are also conscious of the need to remain vigilant against terrorism and we share the firm commitment to remain sensitive to each other’s concerns and not allow our territories to be used by any inimical quarters.
We have agreed on a number of initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation, including through training, supply of equipment, capacity building, joint patrolling and aerial and maritime surveillance. We are also deepening our trilateral maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka and 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.
President Yameen and I discussed ways and means of expanding our economic relations. Our bilateral trade is around Rs. 700 crores, and the balance is overwhelmingly in India’s favour. I would like to see a more balanced growth in our bilateral trade, and we will certainly do all we can to encourage the flow of Indian tourists to Maldives. Increase in Indian investments in Maldives would also contribute to expansion of our 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.
As part of immediate measures, India is extending a standby credit facility of 25 million U.S. dollars to Maldives for imports from India. We have also agreed to meet the requirements of petroleum products in Maldives and have asked our agencies to work out the best possible terms and arrangements. We will continue to further develop our development partnership, including in areas such as education and health.
People-to-people contacts should be characterized by the natural ease of movement that befits two close neighbours. Our air connectivity has improved, and we have also agreed to liberalize our visa regimes, especially for those coming from Maldives for medical treatment.
We also discussed our cooperation in global and regional forums. As members of SAARC, we agreed to continue to work for a more integrated and connected South Asia. I also expressed our appreciation to President Yameen for his country’s steadfast support to India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council.
In conclusion, let me say that India is committed to supporting peace, stability and progress in Maldives. I am confident that under President Yameen’s able leadership, Maldives will be able to fulfill the aspirations of its citizens and play its due role in the region, thereby opening a new chapter in our bilateral relations.