Visit of Maldives Foreign Minister has led to improvement in ties: EAM

New Delhi, May 17 (Mayank Nigam) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said the bilateral relationship with the Maldives, which witnessed “some political turbulence”, has improved after the New Delhi visit of Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer earlier this month. Speaking at a CII event here, the EAM said to a question on India’s ties with its neighbours. “I think with Maldives our development projects are doing well. We definitely had some political turbulence; we are hopeful of managing it. I think things are a little more constructive after my counterpart came over.”

The visit by the Maldivian Foreign Minister on May 9 was the first official visit to India by a senior official of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s government who is widely seen as pro-China. The visit had come after the two countries completed the Fourth Meeting of the India-Maldives High-level Core Group in New Delhi on May 3, during which it was agreed that India will replace the rest of its military personnel at the last of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10. The withdrawal of Indian military personnel manning the aviation platforms was a key campaign promise of President Muizzu. Speaking about the other South Asian neighbours Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka at the CII event, the EAM said that in the past 10 years, since the advent of the Modi government, there has been a great improvement in regional connectivity and regional interdependence. He said with Bangladesh and Nepal there are road and rail connections, power grids, and fuel pipelines, which did not exist before. He said the borders of the countries are easier to traverse, and the volume of business being done is more, as well as access to ports in Bangladesh.

These factors have a lot of consequence for the eastern and northeastern Indian states, he added. Talking about the political ties, he said: “So if I were to look at structurally with many, with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, things have actually gone well for us. Politics has gone steadily in Bangladesh, been a bit more erratic in Nepal, been very steady in Bhutan, that’s the scenario there.” With regard to Sri Lanka, he pointed out three big proposals that are being worked on. “In the case of Sri Lanka, we have three big proposals on the table that we are working on; one is a land bridge to Sri Lanka, one is a power grid, and the third is a fuel pipeline to Sri Lanka. We believe all three are doable. We think this will help both countries. It will certainly give Sri Lanka access to a lot of Indian products and services on scale.” “People saw after the Ukraine conflict that when they source fuel out of India it is significantly cheaper than negotiating it yourself. In fact, very often they couldn’t negotiate supplies at all, so that is doing well,” he added.