India, we are committed to good governance: Maldives minister
Projects being implemented in the Maldives through a $1.4-billion aid package from India might take more time because both countries are committed to transparency, Shahid said during an interview.Updated: Jan 21, 2020 07:07 IST
The Maldives government is looking to a dialogue with China to find solutions to problems arising from the irresponsible borrowing by the former Abdulla Yameen regime, foreign minister Abdulla Shahid has said.
Projects being implemented in the Maldives through a $1.4-billion aid package from India might take more time because both countries are committed to transparency, Shahid said during an interview.
The loans taken by Yameen, who was perceived as close to China, resulted in financial problems for the government of President Ibrahim Solih, who has adopted an “India first” policy. The aid package was provided during Solih’s visit to India in 2018 and New Delhi recently gifted Male a patrol vessel and launched four development projects.
“The former government was most irresponsible in borrowing and this is something we have inherited. We are confident we will be able to deal with it, we are confident we will be able to have a dialogue with China...and I hope we will be able to move ahead for finding solutions to the problems,” Shahid said.
“Stating and restating the problems will not be the way out, the way out would be talking to the concerned people and finding solutions and that this government will do.”
Asked about the possibility of renegotiating deals with China, he said Beijing was “very generous” to Male for social development projects, especially in the housing sector, where many projects were completed. Referring to ongoing projects, he added: “We are confident China will continue to complete those projects and continue to be a good friend of the Maldives.”
Shahid was non-committal about going ahead with a free trade pact (FTA) signed with China by Yameen. “The FTA is being studied by the government,” he said, adding it had not yet been ratified by the Maldives.
Yameen’s regime adopted “very irresponsible policies”, including trying to “play India and China against each other” and this resulted in ties between Male and New Delhi hitting rock bottom, he said. The two sides now have an “outstanding relationship” that is reflected in the number of visits and meetings between the leadership, he said.
India’s $1.4-billion package, including budgetary aid, a currency swap between the two central banks and concessional loans of $800 million, has been utilised. “Some of the smaller projects have already started, some of the larger projects like the Greater Male connectivity, the detailed project proposals are being done. The Addu development project, part of it is already underway, so there’s a lot of movement,” he said.
Shahid said India and the Maldives, as democracies, are committed to good governance and transparency. “We will do everything through transparent means and that might take a little bit more time, but still I would believe it is a better way to do things than doing it under the table,” he said.
Asked about India’s shift from the Saarc grouping to Bimstec, Shahid said the Maldives is very committed to regional cooperation. “We have to address the core issues that are hindering regional cooperation. Addressing these very difficult issues will be the only way forward. We will continue to have good relations with all our neighbours and try to sort it out,” he said.