New Delhi, January 2, 2014: India offered Maldives an enhanced security grid, more defence equipment as well as subsidised petroleum in return for greater investment opportunities to its companies which have had a rough time of late in the island nation.
However, there was no forthright assurance from visiting Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on settling the disputes beyond an assurance that his new government would try to amicably resolve the biggest project of them all — the $500 million investment proposal by the Indian company GMR — in a “broad sense”
The relationship between the two countries had suffered a setback soon after the resignation of then President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012 because his successor, Mohamed Waheed had scrapped the GMR project to modernise and manage Male airport. There was no resolution of the issue even though Dr. Singh had spoken to the then President who had assured the dispute would be resolved.
Instead, the subsequent period saw anti-India propaganda by groups supporting Mr. Waheed in office as well as issues entangling some other projects being pushed by India Inc. On Thursday, at a meeting with business people, Mr. Yameen described the GMR case as a “politicised” and hoped that “before we are through with arbitration, we will be able to mutually resolve this matter”.
Despite these difficulties, India is hopeful of a reinvigorated relationship with Maldives, said officials, while referring to Dr. Singh’s media statement in which he described cooperation between the two countries as “indispensable” for maritime security of the two countries and essential for promoting peace in the Indian Ocean Region.
In an indication of the problems being faced by Indian corporates, Dr. Singh said he wanted to see a more balanced growth in bilateral trade which is heavily skewed in India’s favour. One option was to increase Indian investments in Maldives which would also contribute to the expansion of economic relations. “In this context, I requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some of our investors are facing,” he said.
Dr. Singh also offered a standby credit facility of $25 million to Maldives for imports from India and agreed to meet the island country’s requirement for petroleum products. India also agreed to step up the pace of work on some projects and was offered a plot in land-challenged Male for a High Commission premises. The two sides also signed a MoU for cooperation in the health sector and extended a MoU on meeting manpower requirements at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male.
Dr. Singh also stressed on the need for two countries to be vigilant against terrorism and wanted them to “share the firm commitment” to be sensitive to each other’s concerns and not allow their territories to be used by “any inimical quarters.”
On the defence and security side, the two leaders agreed on initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation through training, supply of equipment, capacity building, joint patrolling and aerial and maritime surveillance. They also decided to deepen trilateral maritime security toes with Sri Lanka.
“We 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,” said the Prime Minister.