President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and First Lady Fazna Ahmed departed to India on Sunday for a three-day state visit.
The Indian government facilitated private air transport for the couple and their entourage which includes Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Finance and Treasury Ibrahim Ameer and Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail. Some media representatives are also accompanying the newly elected president.
Solih is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries. Additionally, Solih will meet some Maldivian citizens currently residing in the Indian capital of New Delhi.
India and Maldives are to sign certain agreements in sectors such as health and defence during the course of the visit. The most notable of these is regarding new visa regulations.
The Foreign Minister stated that the impending visa agreement will be among the most lenient visa policies India has ever opted for and that it will ease difficulties faced by Maldivians travelling to India.
Benefits accorded to Maldivians by the new visa regulations:
1- A 90-day visa will be issued for Maldivians travelling to India for medical, leisure or business related purposes. Such visas will be issued once per every 6-month period.
2- If an individual visiting India on a tourist visa requires medical treatment, they can attain a medical visa without having to travel back to Maldives. In such cases, family members can apply for medical attendant visas.
3- In serious cases, the Indian embassy located in Maldives can issue visas valid for six months or a one-year period after reference to doctor’s reports. In such cases, up to two blood relatives will be issued medical attendant visas.
4- Multiple entry student visas will be issued to students for the duration of chosen courses.
5- Parents can attain multiple entry visas to visit underage children studying in India.
6- Dependent visas and elderly dependent visas will be issued to underage children or elderly parents of Maldivian students in India.
7- In addition to dependent elderly dependent visas, students carrying out research or pursuing higher education in India will be allowed to bring spouses on family visas.
Another key area of discussion will be India’s potential provision of budget support or concessional aid to Maldives.
Foreign Minister Shahid gave a statement to local media outlet Mihaaru on Friday stating that the government would need USD 200 million to stay afloat. While Shahid stated that a considerable sum could be attained from India, he also expressed hope that aid from friendly nations, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), would be forthcoming.
President Solih has pledged to remedy the deterioration of relations between India and Maldives which occurred during the presidency of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Both nations are currently strengthening relations and co-operating in many key areas.