India and the Maldives discussed cooperation in defence and security, trade and connectivity and health among other issues during the visit of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for the 5th Joint Commission meeting.
Sushma Swaraj was in the Maldives on October 10-11 to co-chair the 5th Meeting of the India-Maldives Joint Commission.
She called on President Abdulla Yameen during which the talks “were reflective of the privileged” nature of the bilateral relationship.
Sushma Swaraj emphasised the Indian government’s policy of “neighbours first”, as Yameen underscored the need to cement India-Maldives relations further, said an official statement.
Yameen conveyed that Maldives would hold an Investment Forum in India in 2016, which is also the ‘Visit Maldives’ year. He reiterated the Maldives’ policy of ‘India First’.
Subsequent to the Joint Commission, Sushma Swaraj had meetings with economic development minister Mohamed Saeed and minister of health Irthisham Adam.
During her visit, Sushma Swaraj also had an interaction with the Indian community at the India-Maldives Friendship Faculty for Hospitality and Tourism Studies.
In their discussions during the Joint Commission meeting, Sushma Swaraj and Maldivian foreign minister Dunya Maumoon reviewed the entire gamut of the relationship.
These discussions held special significance not only because the Joint Commission was meeting after 15 years but also because the meeting took place in the year of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and the Maldives.
The defence and security relationship was part of the forward looking discussions in the Joint Commission for the first time. Ongoing cooperation was reviewed and future requirements were discussed.
India-Maldives defence cooperation includes, inter-alia, the construction of a Composite Training Centre for the Maldivian National Defence Forces, joint patrolling, training programmes for MNDF officers in India, medical camps, joint exercises, etc, the statement said.
The ministers were of the view that the bilateral partnership was important also for maintaining security in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Joint Commission discussions endorsed enhancement of trade and investment ties and the development partnership between the countries.
It proposed establishment of a Joint Business Forum and suggested that an investment oriented forum be part of the calendar for 2016.
Both countries agreed to sign agreements at the earliest on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Tax Information Exchange. They agreed to also consider the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement for early finalisation. Consular matters and community issues were also reviewed.
Both sides agreed on an early finalisation to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in criminal matters.
The Maldives reiterated its strong support to India’s candidature as a permanent member of the UN Security Council
The next meeting of the India-Maldives Joint Commission would be in 2017 in India.
Both ministers -- Sushma Swaraj and Dunya Maumoon -- have tasked their officials to hold a review meeting in 2016, preparatory to the next Joint Commission, the statement said.