Foreign ministers of India and Maldives discuss regional security in Delhi

Moosa Zameer's visit comes amid simmering diplomatic tensions over the Maldives’ close ties with China

Moosa Zameer, the Maldives' Foreign Minister, met his Indian counterpart Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Thursday. @MoosaZameer / X
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Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer on Thursday held talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Delhi on regional security issues and bilateral relations, as the two nations grapple with simmering diplomatic tensions.

Mr Zameer, who arrived in the Indian capital New Delhi late on Wednesday for a three-day tour, is the first senior official from the island nation to visit India, a traditional partner of the government in Male.

Randhir Jaiswal, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “The two leaders discussed development partnership and ongoing capacity building and training initiatives. India has been a first responder on numerous occasions for Maldives."

His visit comes amid simmering diplomatic tensionsas the Maldives moves to strengthen ties with China, as well as the recent removal of an Indian military contingent from the strategic Indian Ocean archipelago.

While India has for decades considered Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean known for blue waters, white sand beaches and luxury resorts, a strategic neighbour, relations between the countries have been strained since President Mohamed Muizzu was elected in November after a campaign marked by anti-India rhetoric.

He is known to be a pro-China politician and chose Beijing for his first foreign visit in January, breaking a tradition of Maldivian presidents making New Delhi their initial port of call.

Mr Jaishankar in his opening remarks said the development of the relationship between the “close and proximate neighbours” was based on “mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity”.

He reaffirmed New Delhi’s commitment to development assistance for Male.

“They range from infrastructure projects and social initiatives to medical evacuation and health facilities,” Mr Jaishankar told his Maldivian counterpart. "We have also extended financial support on favourable terms in the past … our co-operation has also enhanced the security and well-being of your country through shared activities, equipment provisioning, capacity building and training.

“We will be reviewing the various dimensions of our ties. It is in our common interest that we reach an understanding on how best we take our relationship forward."

Male has intensified its economic and strategic ties with Beijing in recent years, as the Asian powerhouse – which is the island nation’s largest external creditor with $1.3 billion, about 20 per cent of its total public debt – has invested in infrastructure projects, according to latest International Monetary Fund data.

Beijing and New Delhi are competing for influence in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean, a key maritime route.

The Maldivian Foreign Ministry on Thursday said both ministers had acknowledged the “fruitful economic partnership” and the notable progress of projects enabled with the help of Indian grant assistance and line of credit initiatives.

Mr Zameer conveyed appreciation for India’s steadfast support in fostering and advancing economic, trade and investment ties between the two nations.

He also told an Indian wire agency that Mr Muizzu will “hopefully visit India very soon”.

Mr Zameer’s visit comes days after New Delhi withdrew its military personnel from the Maldives.

About 75 Indian troops were posted there in 2020 to patrol maritime boundaries and run an emergency air evacuation service for its people.

Mr Muizzu had set a deadline of May 10 for New Delhi to withdraw all of its troops, promising to remove “foreign military boots” from Maldivian soil if he came to power.

The military personnel have been replaced by technical staff.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 4:34 PM