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Maldives should treat India ‘first among equals’, but can keep China door open too: Envoy Sudhir

Maldives now understands that due to its strategic location on the Indian Ocean it has a “responsibility to maintain peace and security” of the region, said Sunjay Sudhir, High Commissioner of India to Maldives.

In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Sudhir said this realisation is now deeply embedded in the foreign policy of Maldives as chalked out under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who came to power in November 2018, after the previous Abdulla Yameen regime was ousted.

“The Solih government realises that being at the location where they are, they have a clear responsibility in maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean. This is a realisation which was not there in the previous dispensation,” Sudhir told ThePrint.

Thus, the High Commissioner said, India is putting its full support behind Maldives on this aspect. “India being a net provider of security, it is also our responsibility to maintain peace and security in the region. So these two are complementary approaches and we are working on that,” he said. Ties between New Delhi and Malé had plummeted significantly during Yameen’s regime. Under his government, Maldives gathered Chinese debt to the tune of $2 billion.

President Solih’s reaffirmation of the ‘India First’ policy had reset the ties between both the countries, bringing them closer once again. However, New Delhi has been quite apprehensive of Beijing’s growing influence in the Maldives.

“The kind of economic situation in which Yameen had left Maldives was very dire. There were debts, there were sovereign guarantees, nobody knew what was the figure (of that debt), the private sector had taken loans from Chinese banks and the government had given a guarantee, which is not a norm. It was a very messed up situation so the economy needed a resuscitation so we announced an economic package for them,” he said. India had offered Maldives an economic recovery package of $1.4 billion during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island nation in December 2018. Subsequently, India also announced line of credit and currency swap deals to Maldives.

Read More at https://theprint.in/diplomacy/maldives-should-treat-india-first-among-equals-but-can-keep-china-door-open-too-envoy-sudhir/701359/

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