New Maldives president arrives in India Tuesday

December 22nd, 2008 - 9:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) India and the Maldives, the Indian Ocean nation which had a tryst with democracy nearly two months ago, are set to cement their multi-faceted ties by signing two agreements during the four-day visit of Maldivian President Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed that begins Tuesday. This will be the first India visit for Nasheed, a formal political prisoner, since he dislodged Asia’s longest ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the country’s first multi-party elections in October.

The 41-year-old Nasheed has become a folk hero of sorts in the Maldives with people seeing in him the shades of the charismatic US president-elect Barack Obama and the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. He is no stranger to India and has come here many a time as a pro-democracy activist.

Nasheed will be accompanied by his senior ministers, including Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, an old India hand who also served under Gayoom, but joined the pro-democracy movement last year.

Nasheed will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday.

India and the Maldives will sign an agreement on extending a standby credit facility of $100 million to the Maldives, a nation made up of over 2,000 tropical islands scattered south-west of India in the Indian Ocean.

The two countries will also sign an air services agreement that will enhance connectivity between them.

With the global economic downturn affecting the Maldives’ tourism-driven economy, India’s credit facility will help it in spurring a host of developmental activities.

The Maldives will use $50 million for imports from India while the remaining 50 percent will be for budgetary support.

Nasheed will also address a gathering of business leaders here Tuesday and invite them to invest in his nation that is better known for its luxurious resort islands.

The Maldives, which has always regarded India an all-weather friend, has enlisted New Delhi’s help in building an ambitious marine transport system and invited Indian companies to participate in an international tender that will be floated soon.

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

The two countries reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relationship when Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited the Maldivian capital Male to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new president.

Building upon their traditional ties, the two countries now plan to diversify their ties into new areas that include IT, science and technology, energy.

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