India to help crunch-hit Maldives as ties enter new era

November 11th, 2008 - 9:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Male, Nov 11 (IANS) As Mohamed Nasheed was sworn in as president of the Maldives Tuesday, India assured the new democratic leadership that it will help the Indian Ocean nation in tiding over the current financial crisis and hoped to diversify strong bilateral ties that could include an Indian company building a nationwide transport network. Marking the beginning of India’s formal engagement with the new dispensation in Male, Vice-President Hamid Ansari held talks with Nasheed in the presidential office after attending the swearing-in ceremony in the morning.

Nasheed, a former political prisoner, unseated Asia’s longest-serving ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom after historic polls last month.

Congratulating the 41-year-old Nasheed on his assuming office, an event hailed by New Delhi as “a landmark event”, Ansari invited him to visit India soon and lauded smooth democratic transition in this country.

“Dates for his visit will be finalized through diplomatic channels soon,” Dinesh K. Jain, special secretary in the external affairs ministry, told reporters here.

“The Maldives president affirmed his determination to maintain continuity in relations in all manner and in all areas,” he underlined.

“The Maldives president suggested some new ideas based on five electoral pledges he has given to the people in areas like energy, science and technology, IT, health and education. India assured full support to the new government,” Jain said.

Maldives, a tourist paradise located 800 km off India’s southernmost tip, also enlisted New Delhi’s help in building a transport system and invited Indian companies to participate in an international tender that will be floated soon, he added.

The pan-nation transport network will be a major step in closer integration in a country where over 200,000 people are scattered in nearly 200 out of 11,190 islands who have to use ferry service to travel from one place to another.

“The Maldives government also indicated economic difficulties due to depleting foreign exchange reserves. We assured India’s full support,” Jain said amid reports about the global financial crisis hitting Maldives’ tourism-centric economy.

Ansari also met his counterpart Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, who was accompanied by the ministers of housing, health and infrastructure which underlined the Maldives’ desire to seek India’s crucial assistance in these areas.

Ansari also paid a courtesy call on Gayoom, a long-standing friend of India who had ruled the country for three decades and is widely credited with putting it on the global tourism map.

Describing the nation as “a key friend and an ally in the region”, India’s high commissioner to the Maldives A.K. Pandey underlined that there will be “no pause or full-stop” in this relationship as it moves to new areas.

The call on Gayoom was part of India’s efforts to keep the relationship on a strong wicket regardless of the regime in power. New Delhi has also not ruled out the possibility of Gayoom bouncing back.

“In politics there are no full stops. People bounce back,” Pandey said.

The then Rajiv Gandhi government sent Indian troops to beat off a coup attempt against the Gayoom regime in 1988 which was led by Sri Lankan mercenaries.

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