India’s external affairs minister has not visited the Maldives despite receiving four letters from the country’s foreign minister, a news conference heard Monday.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj told media her Maldivian counterpart Mohamed Asim had asked her to come to Malé and explained why her visit had not taken place.
New Delhi raised some concerns with Asim in January, but she had not visited as there had been no progress. She did not say what the concerns were.
“The Maldives is our neighbour,” Swaraj said in a lively question and answer session, “and they themselves have written ‘India First’ in their own foreign policy. You’ll have seen there are ups and downs with whichever government has been in power. But relations have not broken and they can never be broken.”
She also said that humanitarian assistance to the Maldives had not declined or stopped and remarked that democracy had not been fully restored in the country after the lifting of a controversial and widely condemned state of emergency.
“Four times they have sent a letter, they have invited me again even now,” she continued. “But the last time they came and invited me I said do these things then I will come. They have not done them that’s why there has been no visit.”
The Maldives is the only South Asian country that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet to visit since taking office in 2014.
Asim was snubbed by New Delhi while embarking on an international diplomatic charm offensive during the state of emergency, although the Maldives foreign ministry was quick to say it was not a snub and that his visit had been cancelled at the request of the Indian government.
This article has been updated with a link containing full audio, additional quotes from India’s foreign minister and an English transcript.