Maldives reaffirms 'India first' policy in push to 'reset' ties

Maldives government has reiterated 'India first' policy amid a prolonged strain in bilateral ties over a host of issues, including the signing of a free trade agreement between Maldives and China.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had dispatched his top diplomat Dr Mohamed Asim on a three day visit to New Delhi reiterated Male's 'India First' policy and, according to a statement issued by India, emphasised that Maldives attached the highest priority to its ties with India.

According to official Indian sources, Asim did not just assure India that Male will do nothing to jeopardize India's security interests but also said in his meetings with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj that the Maldives would expedite work on India's developmental projects which the two countries had announced during Yameen's visit to India.

Discussions in Asim's meetings with Modi and Swaraj centred around strengthening of the development partnership between India and Maldives and enhancing defence and security cooperation, said the Indian government.

Asim also invited Modi to Maldives, the only SAARC country which the PM has not visited until now. Modi agreed to visit Maldives "at a suitable time'' as he affirmed that India would always remain a reliable and close neighbour of Male. Asim is also said to have discussed with his Indian counterpart Maldives' recent FTA with China. Male continues to maintain that it would soon like to have a similar agreement with India.

"Swaraj met Mohamed Asim, foreign minister and special envoy of the President of Maldives. Both had productive discussions to strengthen bilateral relationship keeping in mind 'India First' policy of Maldives and our policy of 'Neighbourhood first'," the ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

"External affairs minister (Swaraj) conveyed our commitment to achieving the full potential of our relationship in line with India's Neighbourhood First policy,'' an MEA statement said.