India, Maldives to resolve differences, three MoU signed

New Delhi, Jan 2: India and the Maldives Thursday agreed to “amicably resolve” all differences, including over cancellation of Indian company GMR’s contract to run Male International Airport, as visiting Maldivian President Abdullla Yameen held talks here with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two sides inked three MoUs.

Prime Minister Singh said in his talks he has requested the Maldives government to “amicably settle the issue of the Male International Airport”. The previous government of president Mohammed Waheed had cancelled the $500 million contract with GMR for the airport in December 2012, leading to strain in ties.

President Yameen, who made his first visit to India after the November election in his country, said bilateral ties “may have had rough patches in the past, but it is the commitment of my administration and my council of ministers that we look forward to a strong, healthy working relationship with Indian enterprise.”

Yameen, the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the autocrat who had ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for 30 years, said his maiden visit to India was an “accomplished visit” and was “deeply satisfied” with the agreements signed. He said the fact that he was spending new year in India was indicative of the importance placed in ties with India.

Manmohan Singh said he congratulated the president and the people of Maldives for a successful election that has paved the way for “reconciliation, stability and continued economic progress”.

On boosting economic ties, the prime minister said he had “requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some of our investors are facing.”

India also extended a standby credit facility of $25 million to Maldives for imports from India and agreed to meet the requirement of petroleum products in Maldives.

Yameen voiced appreciation of India’s equidistant approach during the Maldives presidential election that had led to a political stand-off in the country.

“India has clearly shown that India recognises Maldives sovereignty and is supportive of our stance.. and we want to show to the international community that Maldives can manage its own affairs,” he said, referring to the criticism from many western countries over cancellation of the first presidential election.

He said while Maldives “wants to assure corporate India of the immense possibilities of his country”, we are also “mindful of the difficult times we had with Indian companies”. He said his government is “willing to work out a mutually acceptable solution. both partners should be happy as a way to sustainable economic cooperation.”

India and the Maldives are to boost security and maritime cooperation, people to people contacts and air connectivity.

Both sides also agreed to address visa and consular concerns. India has agreed to allow visa-free entry for people from Maldives for medical purposes and removal of the restriction on re-entry within two months, which the Maldives president expressed appreciation of.

The three MoUs inked were on on health cooperation, for extending manpower requirement of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Maldives and one on allotment of plot of land in New Delhi to the High Commission of Maldives. Yaameen also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Singh to visit Maldives.

–Indo-Asain News Service

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IANS