Swaraj holds talks with Maldivian counterpart Shahid

Swaraj holds talks with Maldivian counterpart Shahid

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI file photo

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday held talks with her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid and reviewed progress on important bilateral issues, including implementation of agreed outcomes of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's visit to India last year.

Swaraj arrived here on Sunday on a two-day visit, the first full-fledged bilateral trip from India to the island nation after the government of President Solih came to power in November last year.

"Warm discussions between EAM @SushmaSwaraj & Foreign Minister @abdulla_shahid. Reviewed progress on important bilateral issues, including implementation of agreed outcomes of the State Visit of President @ibusolih to India," External Affairs Ministry (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

Solih visited India in December last year during which India announced a USD 1.4 billion financial assistance to the island nation.

The two countries had also agreed to remain mindful of each other's concerns and aspirations for the stability of the Indian Ocean region and not allow their respective territories to be used for any activity inimical to their interests.

Swaraj also held a joint ministerial meeting with nine other Maldivian ministers, including Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi and Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer.

In a special gesture, Swaraj was earlier received at the airport by her Maldivian counterpart and Foreign Secretary Abdul Mohamed.

Swaraj will also call on President Solih on Monday and Speaker of the Parliament Qasim Ibrahim on Sunday. Minister of Home Affairs Sheikh Imran Abdulla will also call on Swaraj.

In New Delhi, the MEA said Saturday that her visit is aimed at further strengthening the "close and friendly" relations between the two countries.

"India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity," it said.

"The ministers will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations and discuss future programme of action," the MEA said.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and a number of senior officials are accompanying Swaraj during the trip.

Officials said it will be the first full-fledged bilateral visit at the political level from India to the Maldives after the new government assumed office.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Maldives in November only to attend Solih's swearing-in ceremony and no substantive discussion had taken place then.

Sources said the Maldives was aware of Indian government's limitations due to the election code of conduct and that Swaraj's visit will be to enhance overall ties which came under strain during the presidentship of Abdulla Yameen, who was known to be close to China.

Relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year.

India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted for 45 days.

Solih became president in November after he defeated Yameen in presidential elections.