[India], Nov 26 (ANI): India's relationship with the Maldives is of the utmost priority, stated Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a press release.
The statement comes following the bilateral meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on Monday during his maiden four-day visit to the country.
"EAM reiterated that India attaches highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity. She said that in line with Government of India's Neighbourhood First policy, India stands ready to fully support the Government of the Maldives in its socio-economic development," stated MEA press release.
India welcomed and extended its support for Maldives' decision to rejoin Commonwealth. Swaraj also welcomed the Maldives into the Indian Ocean Rim Association as its newest member.
Shahid reiterated Maldivian government's "India First" policy and asserted that the South Asian island nation is looking forward to working closely with the Government of India on all issues.
Reaffirming Maldives' special, close and friendly relations with India, Shahid reiterated that the Maldives will be sensitive towards India's security and strategic concerns.
Further, recognising the importance of historical and cultural links between the two nations, the two leaders agreed to hold the meeting of the bilateral Consular Dialogue at the earliest.
The two ministers also discussed security and defence issues including ongoing projects and new areas of cooperation.
India and Maldives also agreed to hold the next meeting of the Defence Cooperation Dialogue between both countries in the first half of December.
To expand and diversify the bilateral economic and commercial relations, the two countries agreed on the need of encouragement of the private sector.
Shahid also invited Swaraj for a bilateral visit to the Maldives. The two ministers also decided to hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers at the earliest.
Later in the day, Shahid also called on Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
He is scheduled to meet with President Ram Nath Kovind on November 27 before he departs for the Maldives in the evening.
The Maldivian Foreign Minister's visit significantly adds to the relationship shared between Maldives and India, as it comes right after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the Maldives for the swearing-in of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
In an exclusive interview to ANI right before his meeting with the EAM, Shahid stated that India is a "best friend" to the Maldives who has always been there during the country's time of need. He further outlined that the country was looking for generous assistance from India in order to fulfill their electoral promises made to the people.
Shahid also underscored that a "new era of Maldives-India relation has begun." (ANI)