Diplomacy Politics

New foreign minister of Maldives harps on ‘India First’ policy

NEW DELHI: Abdulla Shahid, the new Foreign Minister of the Republic of Maldives, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Monday and reiterated his government’s “India First” policy.

Shahid, accompanied by Minister of State for Foreign affairs Ahmed Khaleel, Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohammed, Finance minister Fayaaz Ismail, Minister of Economic Development Ahmed Khaleel, arrived in New Delhi on Saturday on a four-day visit.

During their talks on Monday, Swaraj and Shahid discussed the modalities for the state visit of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to India on December 17, and ways to ramp up the economic, cultural, defence and political partnership between the two nations, which had taken a hit during the previous regime of pro-China President Abdulla Yameen.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the capital Male on November 17 for the swearing ceremony of Solih, head of the opposition alliance who had unexpectedly won against Yameen in the September elections.

During the Swaraj-Shahid meeting, the latter reiterated that the government of Maldives would be sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns. Sushma, in turn, assured him of Indian help in ensuring fiscal and budgetary stability, which faces a Chinese debt trap owning to Yameen’s decision to allow massive Chinese infrastructure investments in the country.

Swaraj also told Shahid that India backed the Maldives decision to rejoin the Commonwealth, and welcomed the Maldives into the Indian Ocean Rim Association as its newest member. Shahid also met defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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