File photo: Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid. Photograph:( AFP )
Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid spoke exclusively to WION's Sidhant Sibal and said India has a key role to play in the development and security of the Maldives.
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Maldives visit, Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid spoke exclusively to WION's Sidhant Sibal and called PM Modi's visit to his country a great honour.
Shahid also said India has a key role to play in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and thus the development and security of the Maldives.
WION: How do you see PM Modi's visit?
Abdulla Shahid: It is a great honour for the Maldives to host Prime Minister Modi for his first visit abroad after his appointment as Prime Minister on May 30 2019. It signals the exceptionally strong relationship between the Maldives and India, and President Solih and Prime Minister Modi. You would recall that President Solih’s first visit abroad was to India in December 2018, and PM Modi was a guest at President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018. The Maldives is the only country in South Asia that PM Modi has not visited and for him to visit now, signals the government of India's trust in the government of President Solih and its vision for people-centred, inclusive, just government.
WION: Your thoughts on the current status of ties between India and Maldives
Abdulla Shahid: There is a renewed dynamism in the traditionally close Maldives-India relationship. With the exchange of high-level visits - including at the Head of State and Head of Government level and the foreign ministerial level - the two countries have further expanded and also strengthened the relationship. This year we will mark 54 years since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations but the ties go beyond that. Our people are connected, through shared values, culture, and affinity. With the recent entry into force of the Visa Facilitation Agreement, these people-to-people ties have expanded and strengthened.
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WION: How are both countries cooperating in the maritime domain and security?
Abdulla Shahid: The Maldives recognises the profound link between stability and peace in the Indian Ocean and the stability, peace and progress of the Maldives. As well as the link between stability and peace in the Maldives, and stability and peace of the Indian Ocean. India has a key role to play in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and in turn the development and security of the Maldives. Recognising this link, both countries have cooperated in joint patrolling, aerial surveillance, held joint exercises and trilateral exercises with Sri Lanka. We recently concluded an exercise “Ekatha” in April 2019. The purpose of these exercises and joint activities is to maintain the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean for development to flourish. India is also working with our security personnel, and our police, to expand their capacity and increase technical know-how.
WION: How do you see India's development aid?
Abdulla Shahid: India has been a constant friend and a partner in the development journey of the Maldives. Most recently, India has extended a package of $1.4 billion, including budgetary support, currency swap and line of credit. This financial support will enable the government to achieve greater development, especially for the islands.
India’s support for our human development and capacity building is also of note. We are looking to build people who can lead the country to greater heights. And learning the technical know-how, getting the experience, learning from countries like India is immensely helpful. India’s support in other areas is also important, such as in the health sector. We are working with the Indian government to expand cooperation in the health sector, to train health care professionals across the country, in addition to doctors and nurses at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Maldives.