India, Maldives to hold talks Monday

December 1st, 2008 - 12:23 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) Three weeks after a new democratic dispensation took charge in the Indian Ocean nation, Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed Sunday began a three-day visit to India that is set to further cement friendly ties between the two countries. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will Monday hold talks with Shaheed on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including the expansion of economic ties, global warming and energy security.

The Maldives, the Indian Ocean country known for its luxury holiday resorts and pristine beaches, is expected to press for increased Indian investment in infrastructure and education sectors.

The new Maldivian government is also hopeful of getting aid from India that can help it to shore up its tourism-centred economy which has been affected by the global economic downturn.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari represented India at the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, a former political prisoner, early this month.

This will be Shaheed’s first visit to India after becoming foreign minister under the new democratic dispensation.

Shaheed played a key role in the democratic movement in the Maldives that dislodged Asia’s longest serving ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the country’s first multi-party elections last month.

He also served as foreign minister in the Gayoom presidency, but resigned last year and joined the pro-democracy alliance after he felt Gayoom was not interested in promoting real democracy in the Maldives, home to 25,000 Indians.

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