The government and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have extended greetings to the Indian government and people on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day (August 15).
President Yameen conveyed “warm greetings and sincere good wishes” in separate messages to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian president, according to the president’s office.
“He has also expressed his confidence that ties of friendship and understanding that exist between the Maldives and India will continue to strengthen in the coming years,” the president’s office said.
In a statement yesterday, the MDP reiterated its stance that “India must remain the guardian of the Indian Ocean region” and wished the people of India “a bright future guaranteed with stability, security and prosperity.”
The Maldives’ relations with India soured in December 2012 following the abrupt termination of a concession agreement with Indian infrastructure giant GMR to manage and develop the international airport. India eased visa restrictions and lifted a ban on exporting construction material after the election of President Abdulla Yameen in November 2013,
However, relations with India came under strain again with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed in February. Modi subsequently dropped the Maldives from an Indian Ocean tour.
A constitutional amendment passed in late July that allows foreigners to own land in the Maldives for the first time stoked security concerns in Delhi with the opposition saying the move may allow China to build military bases.
Yameen, however, assured India that the Maldives will keep the Indian Ocean demilitarized, and insisted foreign freeholds will not adversely affect “friendly relations” with South Asian neighbours.
Since the passing of the amendment, Indian Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar visited the Maldives on August 4 and met with the Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and discussed the strengthening of bilateral ties.
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Rajeev Shahare, was appointed India’s ambassador to Denmark last week and is expected to take up his assignment shortly.
New Delhi has yet to name a replacement for the outgoing high commissioner.
Speaking at a ceremony held at the Indian High Commission in Malé yesterday to mark the 69th anniversary of India’s independence from the British, Shahare said high-level exchanges and visits by top officials will continue in the future.
The traditional bilateral relationship between the neighbours remain “strong,” he said.
Around 250 people from the Indian expatriate community in the capital as well as the High Commission’s staff and their families attended Saturday’s flag hoisting ceremony
The MDP meanwhile went on to say that India’s Independence Day was celebrated across the South Asia region “and we all rejoice in India’s role as the largest democracy in the world.
“India continues to be our closest partner in development, and the Maldivian Democratic Party expresses our most sincere gratitude for India’s relentless engagement with us in trade, development and especially in strengthening and safeguarding democracy in the Maldives,” the statement read.