New Delhi:India and the Maldives Thursday agreed to “amicably resolve” all differences, including over cancellation of Indian company GMR’s contract to run Male International Airport, as visiting Maldivian President Abdullla Yameen held talks here with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the two sides inked three MoUs.
“Three MoUs have been signed. Two are related to health and human resource development and one on the diplomatic front,” Yameen later told IANS on the sidelines of a business session organised by leading industry chambers FICCI, CII and Assocham.
“The diplomatic one envisages land for chanceries in Male as well as in Delhi — in Male for the Indian High Commission and in New Delhi for the Maldivian one. This is going to symbolise the strong bonds we have in relations between India and the Maldives,” the president noted.
Apart from an MoU on health cooperation, another MoU is for extending the manpower requirement of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in the Maldives.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the talks requested the Maldives government to “amicably settle the issue of the Male International Airport”. The previous government of president Mohammed Waheed had cancelled the $500 million contract with GMR for the airport in December 2012, leading to strain in ties.
President Yameen, who made his first visit to India after the November election in his country, said bilateral ties “may have had rough patches in the past, but it is the commitment of my administration and my council of ministers that we look forward to a strong, healthy working relationship with Indian enterprise”.
Yameen, the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — the autocrat who had ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for 30 years, said his maiden visit to India was an “accomplished visit” and he was “deeply satisfied” with the agreements signed. He said the fact that he was spending New Year in India was indicative of the importance placed in ties with India.
Manmohan Singh said he congratulated the president and the people of Maldives for a successful election that has paved the way for “reconciliation, stability and continued economic progress”.
On boosting economic ties, the prime minister said he had “requested President Yameen to amicably settle the issue of Male International Airport and address the problems that some of our investors are facing”.
India also extended a standby credit facility of $25 million to the Maldives for imports from India and agreed to meet the requirement of petroleum products in the island nation.
Yameen voiced appreciation of India’s equidistant approach during the Maldives presidential election that had led to a political stand-off in the country.
“India has clearly shown that India recognises Maldives’ sovereignty and is supportive of our stance… and we want to show to the international community that Maldives can manage its own affairs,” he said, referring to the criticism from many western countries over cancellation of the first presidential election.
He said that while the Maldives “wants to assure corporate India of the immense possibilities of his country… we are also mindful of the difficult times we had with Indian companies”. He said his government is “willing to work out a mutually acceptable solution. Both partners should be happy as a way to sustainable economic cooperation”.
India and the Maldives are to boost security and maritime cooperation, people-to-people contacts and air connectivity.
Both sides also agreed to address visa and consular concerns. India has agreed to allow visa-free entry for people from the Maldives for medical purposes and removal of the restriction on re-entry within two months, which the Maldives president expressed appreciation of.
Addressing the FICCI-CII-Assocham business meeting, Yameen referred to the cancellation of Indian company GMR’s contract to run Male International Airport, saying: “We are very keen to talk to GMR to resolve the issue. In fact, at this very point in time GMR is speaking to our officials to settle the matter before we are through with the arbitration.”
Thanking India for its cooperation in the development of the Maldives, the president invited Indian business to invest in Maldives which he described as being “a stone’s throw away from India”.