Ansari leaves on two-day trip to Maldives

November 10th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 10 (IANS) Vice president Hamid Ansari Monday left on a two-day visit to the Maldives to represent India at the swearing-in ceremony of the president elect of the Indian Ocean nation Mohamed Nasheed.During the visit that will open a new chapter in India’s multi-faceted ties with the Maldives, Ansari will hold talks with the 41-year-old leader who unseated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Asia’s longest serving ruler, in last month’s historic multi-party elections.

The vice-president will hold talks with Nasheed on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including the intensification of economic ties, developmental assistance, climate change, and issues relating to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), official sources said Sunday. Maldives will host the SAARC summit next year.

Ansari will meet his counterpart Mohamed Waheed Hasan, who will also be sworn in Tuesday.

The vice president will also call on Gayoom, whose regime ended Oct 28 after he lost the historic multi-party polls to pro-democracy activist Nasheed whom he had imprisoned many a times in the last decade.

In an assertion of its strategic interests in the Maldives, the then Rajiv Gandhi government sent troops to beat off Sri Lankan mercenaries who tried to oust Gayoom in a failed coup in 1988.

India hailed the beginning of “a new era of constitutional reform, democracy and development” in the Indian ocean archipelago after Nasheed won the presidential elections, ending three decades of one-man rule by Gayoom.

The visit by Ansari, a former diplomat who served as India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Iran, barely a fortnight after the 47-year-old Nasheed was elected president, will build upon enormous goodwill across the spectrum in the Maldives for India.

The vice president will also meet leaders of the Indian community in the Maldives. Indians are the largest expatriate community in the Maldives with a population of 19,430 that forms a sturdy human bridge between the two countries.

A large number of Maldives diplomats have been trained in India. And Maldivians have not forgotten India was among the first few countries to help when the 2004 tsunami struck the Indian Ocean nation. India also provides hardware for military and training to the Maldives’ defence personnel.

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