Have not made any proposal to Maldives for FTA: India

NEW DELHI, May 30 : India on Thursday trashed reports that it has proposed a free trade agreement with the Maldives but at the same time said it was ready to consider such a pact if the island nation expresses interest for it.

“No specific proposal for a bilateral FTA with the Maldives has been made by the government of India,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said.

“If the government of Maldives expresses interest in having an FTA with India, we will give it due consideration,” he said.

Jaiswal’s comments came in response to a question at his weekly media briefing.

Last week, Maldivian Minister for Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed indicated that India has initiated efforts to have an FTA between the two countries.

“They (India) want there to be a Free Trade Agreement with Maldives, in addition to SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement),” Saeed told a press conference in Male.

The Maldives President has offered this opportunity to all countries, Saeed said, adding that the government aims to enter into such agreements with as many countries as possible to offer ease in trade activities.

The ties between India and the Maldives came under strain since November last year when President Mohamed Muizzu, known for his pro-China leanings, took the oath.

Within hours of his oath, he had demanded the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from his country.

The last of the Indian military personnel were replaced by civilians earlier this month.

The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.

Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer visited India this month in the first high-level trip from Male after Muizzu assumed office.

In his talks with Zameer, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed that the development of India-Maldives ties is based on “mutual interests” and “reciprocal sensitivity”.

“As close and proximate neighbours, the development of our ties is obviously based on mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity,” the external affairs minister said in his opening remarks in his meeting with Zameer. (PTI)