NEW DELHI: India will lay the red carpet for Ibu Solih who will make his maiden state visit abroad on December 17 after being elected as Maldives President by defeating Abdullah Yameen, known for his pro-China leanings.
Solih will be housed in Rashtrapati Bhawan during his visit as a gesture reserved for close guests such as King of Bhutan and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. By doing so, India would display special warmth towards the new leader of the key Indian Ocean Region, ET has learnt.
Solih, in keeping with his India-first policy, will undertake a standalone trip to Delhi on his maiden state visit.
Key takeaways from the visit include positioning India as an all-weather friend of Maldives besides reciprocal liberal visa regime and Delhi’s financial support for socio-economic projects in the island nation, persons familiar with the matter indicated to ET.
Both sides are keen to amend the 1979 arrangement of visas to ease the travel of Maldivian families to India and vice-versa. The Maldives too plans to ease business visas for Indians after Yameen had made it difficult for Indian businessmen to travel to the Maldives.
India and Maldives are hoping to conclude the bilateral investment treaty allowing private investments from here to the neighbouring country.
The Modi government wants to encourage the Indian private sector to invest in the island nation across a range of sectors including infrastructure. Delhi will extend support to Solih for infrastructure development in far-flung islands of Maldives as Solih aims to reduce the dependence of China, indicated one of the persons quoted above. Housing, water, health and sewerage systems in the outlying islands of Maldives are on India’s radar.
India is also exploring joint projects in the Maldives in partnership with the USA, Japan, UAE and Japan.
Solih’s visit will also review security and defence matters, including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation. The two countries will hold the next meeting of the Defence Cooperation Dialogue in the first half of December 2018.
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