By¬†N C Bipindra
India and Maldives on Monday agreed to ramp up their defence ties to meet the common threats and challenges that the region posed, including piracy and terrorism in the Indian Ocean region.
Despite the recent hiccups in the diplomatic ties of the two countries, India‚Äôs Defence Minister A K Antony conveyed to his Maldivian counterpart Colonel Mohammed Nazim that, ‚ÄúIndia stands committed to enhance the ongoing defence and security partnership with Maldives.‚Äù
During the meeting, both sides noted that defence cooperation between India and Maldives has been growing over the years, to the benefit of both sides.
‚ÄúAs close neighbours sharing common security concerns, there is scope to further develop the relationship in mutually agreed areas,‚Äù¬† Officials of the Ministry of Defence said, citing deliberations during the hour-long meeting.
Ongoing exchanges between the armed forces of both nations in areas of training, exercises and strengthening of infrastructure and capabilities were reviewed by the two ministers. ‚ÄúIt was decided to take measures to further enhance such exchanges. Both sides also agreed that there is a need for India and Maldives to continue to work together to tackle security concerns, in the interest of peace and stability in the region,‚Äù officials said. Apart from meeting with Antony, Col Nazim also met with Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to hold talks on common security interests.
He also met the Indian Army and the Indian Navy Vice-Chiefs, and the Indian Coast Guard Director General. The Maldivian Minister is on a four-day official visit to India during which he would be visiting military establishments in various parts of the country.
The visit has come through just months after there was a war of words between New Delhi and Male over former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed taking shelter in the Indian High Commission building in February this year following fears of his arrest ahead of the presidential elections in the atoll nation. After an intervention from New Delhi, Nasheed walked out of the Indian High Commission building after a 11-day stay, defusing the¬† situation that was threatening to mar relations between the two countries. In November last, Maldivian government under Nasheed‚Äôs successor Mohammed Wahid had cancelled a commercial deal with the Indian infrastructure company GMR for construction of a modern airport. India provides security cover to Maldives through aerial and maritime patrol of its territorial waters.