Sushma meets Maldives minister amid strained ties

Sushma meets Maldives minister amid strained ties

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday met her Maldivian counterpart Mohamed Asim to convey India's concerns on the island nation's recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

The visiting minister "reaffirmed his government's India-first policy and emphasised that Maldives attached the highest priority to its ties with India", the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press statement.

Asim is the first high-ranking official of the archipelago nation in Indian Ocean to visit India after President Abdulla Yameen's government in Male inked a Free Trade Agreement with China in December.

The FTA caused unease in India. While New Delhi did not publicly criticise Male, the southern neighbour was reminded through diplomatic channel that it was President Yameen's government in Maldives that had articulated its India-First policy.

According to the agreement, China won't impose any taxes on fisheries imports from the island nation, and Maldives will not levy tax on goods imported from China.

"Discussions (between Swaraj and Asim) centred around strengthening of the development partnership between India and Maldives and enhancing defence and security cooperation. Sushma conveyed our commitment to achieving the full potential of our relationship in line with India's Neighbourhood First policy," said the MEA statement.

Asim, also the special envoy of the President of Maldives, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite him to Male. A planned prime ministerial visit in 2015 had to be cancelled due to political unrest in the island nation.

Modi accepted the invitation and affirmed that India would always be a reliable and close neighbour of Maldives, supporting it in its progress and security.

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