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India shifts trade focus to please Maldives

Fathmath Shaahunaz
22 September 2016, MVT 16:53
Akhilesh Mishra, the Indian Ambassador to the Maldives, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of Maldives Investment Forum 2016. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
22 September 2016, MVT 16:53

India will shape its new trade policy with the Maldives to cater entirely for the archipelago’s advantages and benefits, said the South Asian neighbour late Wednesday.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Maldives Investment Forum to be held in India this year, the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Akhilesh Mishra, stated that he wished to strengthen the longstanding trade relations between India and the Maldives during his tenure. As such, he noted the need to expand those relations to other areas outside of trade.

According to Mishra, economic transactions between the two South Asian neighbours must be based on three factors. He listed that the transactions must proceed as desired by the Maldivian government and citizens, that they must be beneficial to the island nation, and finally that they must be done transparently.

The ambassador noted that despite the significant gap in economic strength between India and the Maldives, the former cannot make the best decision for the Maldives without input and guidance from the island nation.

Mishra also guaranteed his efforts to procure the best opportunities from India to Maldivian entrepreneurs. He expressed hopes that the upcoming Investment Forum being held in Indian capital New Delhi on November 21 and 22 will be an additional boost.

The long enduring relations between the Maldives and India had become tenuous when the Maldives had taken back Ibrahim Nasir International Airport after awarding its operations to India’s GMR Group. Following the breach in contract, the Indian government had pressured the Maldives in various ways such as visa complications for Maldivians that travelled to India on medical trips and halting exportation of aggregate to the island nation. As a result, the Maldives had faced several obstacles, including a lull in its construction industry.

During that period, the Maldives had also taken back a number of development projects awarded to Indian firms by former president Mohamed Nasheed during his regime. Among the contracts broken was the agreement with Tatva for waste management in Maldives’ capital Male. Moreover, Tata Housing Development Company had also halted the development of flats in Male over certain actions taken by the Maldivian government.

India had also raised concerns over the strengthening relations between the Maldives and China in recent years. Currently, a number of major infrastructural development projects, especially the ongoing China-Maldives Friendship Bridge linking Male with airport island Hulhule, are being constructed by Chinese firms or under Chinese grants.

However, diplomatic relations between the Maldives and India have been improving recently, such as India’s fierce advocating for the Maldives during the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) sit down last February and April, which had shielded the archipelago from action taken against it.

In addition, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s had met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his last visit to India. The president and prime minister had both declared Indian firms’ interest in investing in the Maldives following the visit.

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