Maldives president arrives in India

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) As China continues to increase its engagement with Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago nation’s President Abdulla Yameen arrived in India on Sunday on a two-day bilateral visit.

“A maritime neighbour comes calling! President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of Maldives arrives on an official visit,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Yameen is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Mohamed Shainee and three members of the Maldivian parliament.

In Delhi, President Yameen will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi over a working lunch on Monday. A number of significant MoUs are expected to be signed during the meeting.

Yameen, who had come to India on a bilateral visit in January 2014 and was among the South Asian leaders who attending the Modi government’s swearing-in in May 2014, would also call on President Pranab Mukherjee on April 11, according to Swarup.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would call on him on the morning of April 11. She had met her Maldivian counterpart in Nepal on the sidelines of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meet last month.

Though India and Maldives completed 50 years of diplomatic ties last year and the two countries historically enjoyed a close relationship, Yameen’s visit assumes significance because of New Delhi’s discomfiture over China’s increasing investments and influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Former Maldivian president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was in New Delhi last month to deliver a lecture, said that his country found business and investment proposals from China more attractive.

“We have said so many times, businessmen from India are welcome, as business from other countries like Russia, China,” he said.

Sushma Swaraj visited Maldives in November 2014 and again in October 2015 for the India-Maldives joint commission meeting, which was held after 15 years.

This year, ministerial delegations to India, led by the country’s foreign minister, defence minister, tourism minister, and foreign secretary “have further strengthened bilateral ties between India and Maldives”, said a Maldives high commission statement.

India has sought to deepen its relations with the Yameen dispensation following unease in ties that had crept in after New Delhi was seen backing former president Mohamed Nasheed. India had voiced concern over his prolonged incarceration, and Prime Minister Modi had also cancelled a visit to Male earlier.

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