In its first of a kind initiative, India will be hosting a delegation from Maldives, led by Islamic affairs minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, to forge stronger ties with moderate Islamic institutions here next week.
Sources said that the minister will be arriving on Sunday and will be visiting New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Aligarh Muslim University and possibly Deoband. The schedule for the minister is still being worked out, sources said.
“This is for the first time that we are trying to engage with any country to foster closer ties between Islamic institutions,” said an official, explaining the importance of the visit.
Express had reported about this proposal in January.
The MEA initiative was based on the premise that Maldivian youth should be made aware of excellent Islamic seminaries in India, instead of making a beeline for Pakistan and Gulf, leading to rising extremist views in the Indian ocean island nation.
Concerns have been raised over how Maldivian youth travelling for Islamic studies to Pakistan often end up involved in Jihadist terror activities.
In December last year, a Maldivian national was learned to have died in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, even though he was based in a Pakistani madarssa for six years.
As part of this new thread in bilateral ties, Indian high commissioner Rajiv Shahare had announced to local media in Maldives that India will for the first time take part in the Islamic fair organised by the government. “We will try to show the Islamic history of India to Maldives,” Shahare was quoted in Miadhu daily.
Maldives figured for the first time on the terror map in 2007, when a local Lashkar-e-Toiba module was blamed for a bomb attack which injured 12 foreign tourists.
In 2009, Ali Jaleel, a Maldivian citizen who studied at Jamia Salafia seminary in Faislabad, Pakistan, was part of the team of three who conducted a suicide bomb attack at the ISI headquarters in Lahore.
According to sources, Bangladesh too had been considered at the initial stage of planning, to be part of the proposal to show that Islamic traditions in India were still alive. But it was ruled out owing to sensitive concerns.