India committed to supporting peace, stability and progress in Maldives: PM

New Delhi, Jan.2: India is committed to supporting peace, stability and progress in Maldives, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Thursday.

In a statement to the media after bilateral talks, Dr. Singh said he was delighted to welcome Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom on his first state visit to India.

He also congratulated President Yameen on his victory and the people of Maldives for a successful and peaceful election that he said 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,” Dr. Singh said.

The Prime Minister further said that both India and the Maldives were conscious of the need to remain vigilant against terrorism.

“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,” he said.

Dr. Singh said during the bilateral discussions, both sides had 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,” the Prime Minister said.

He also that he and President Yameen had aslo discussed ways and means to expand bilateral 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,” Dr. Singh said.

He also revealed that he had requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some Indian 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,” he said.

“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,” Dr. Singh said.

“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,” the Prime Minister said. (ANI)