Sushma Swaraj arrives in Maldives for two-day visit

PTI Malé, Maldives Mar 17, 2019, 04.51 PM(IST)

File photo: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. Photograph:( AFP )

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Sources said the Maldives was aware of Indian government's limitations due to the election code of conduct and that Swaraj's visit will be to enhance overall ties which came under strain during the presidentship of Abdulla Yameen, who was known to be close to Chin

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday arrived in the Maldives on a two-day visit, in the first full-fledged bilateral trip from India to the island nation after the government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came to power in November.

In a special gesture, Swaraj was received at the airport by her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid and Foreign Secretary Abdul Mohamed, External Affairs Ministry (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

'EAM @SushmaSwaraj receives a warm welcome on arrival in #Maldives. In a special gesture, FM @abdulla_shahid & Foreign Secretary Abdul Mohamed receive EAM at the airport. First high-level visit to the Maldives since new Maldives government assumed office in November 2018,' he said in a tweet.

In Male, Swaraj will have a bilateral meeting with Shahid and delegation-level talks with Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Aishath Nahula and Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail.

Swaraj will also call on President Solih on Monday and Speaker of the Parliament Qasim Ibrahim on Sunday. Minister of Home Affairs Sheikh Imran Abdulla will also call on Swaraj.

In New Delhi, the MEA said Saturday that her visit is aimed at further strengthening the 'close and friendly' relations between the two countries.

'India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding, and sensitivity,' it said.

'The ministers will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations and discuss the future programme of action,' the MEA said.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and a number of senior officials are accompanying Swaraj during the trip.

Officials said it will be the first full-fledged bilateral visit at the political level from India to the Maldives after the new government assumed office.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Maldives in November only to attend Solih's swearing-in ceremony and no substantive discussion had taken place then.

Sources said the Maldives was aware of Indian government's limitations due to the election code of conduct and that Swaraj's visit will be to enhance overall ties which came under strain during the presidentship of Abdulla Yameen, who was known to be close to China.

Solih visited India in December last year during which India announced a USD 1.4 billion financial assistance to the island nation.

The two countries had also agreed to remain mindful of each other's concerns and aspirations for the stability of the Indian Ocean region and not allow their respective territories to be used for any activity inimical to their interests.

Relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year.

India had criticized his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted for 45 days.

Solih became president in November after he defeated Yameen in presidential elections.