Committed to take forward development partnership with Maldives — India
NEW DELHI — India on Thursday said it remains committed to take forward its development agenda with the Maldives including implementation of various welfare projects in the island nation.
The comments by External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal came amid strain in ties between the two countries following Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu’s call for withdrawal of Indian military personnel from his country by March 15.
“We remain committed to our projects and to take them forward. We have been an important development partner of the Maldives,” he said at his weekly media briefing while replying to a question.
“We remain committed to doing all things that we can do as a development partner of the Maldives,” Jaiswal added.
On Male insisting on withdrawal of Indian troops, he suggested that the matter will be deliberated upon at the second meeting of India-Maldives core group. The next core group meeting is set to take place in New Delhi early next month.
The issue of the Indian military personnel was extensively discussed at the first meeting of the core group in Male on January 14.
“Both sides held discussions on finding mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac (medical evacuation) services to the people of Maldives,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement following the meeting.
The India-Maldives ties came under some stress as Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president in November that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.
The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.
In May last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Maldives during which he handed over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft to the island nation.
In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih kick-started the India-funded Greater Male connectivity project, billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation.
Under the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
The Maldives is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s Neighbourhood First policy.
Asked about the case of eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel in Qatar, Jaiswal said a consular access was given to the Indian embassy in Doha recently.
“Our ambassador along with the embassy officials met the eight detained (Indians). The legal team is looking into the plea aspect,” he said.
The Court of Appeal in Qatar on December 28 commuted the death sentence handed down to the Indians and sentenced them to prison for varying durations, weeks after their family members filed an appeal against the earlier order by another court.
The Indians have been given 60 days’ time to appeal against the varying prison terms.
“It will be decided by the legal team,” Jaiswal said on the possible appeal.