NEW DELHI: Maldives president Abdulla Yameen has reportedly written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assure him that there will be no militarization in the Indian Ocean.
It is learnt that the assurance was in a letter that the Maldivian foreign secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed handed over to the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday evening.
As per sources, Yameen had written in response to Modi’s letter that had been conveyed by foreign secretary S Jaishankar who was in Maldives earlier this week.
The assertion that Maldives will not take any step towards militarization of the strategic region was, of course, a reference to Indian concerns about the recent constitutional amendment which allowed foreigners to own land in the island nation.
There had been some anxiety in New Delhi that this will allow China to gain a foothold in Maldives, and eventually, lead to a military base. Jaishankar had even summoned the Maldivian ambassador Ahmed Mohamed to South Block on the evening that parliament approved the constitutional amendment bill.
Earlier last month, Yameen had publicly said after he ratified the constitutional amendment that was passed by parliament.
“The Maldivian government has given assurances to the Indian government and our neighbouring countries as well to keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone,” Yameen asserted on July 23.
In his letter, Modi had reportedly written about bilateral relations in positive terms, referring to the long-standing ties with defence and security cooperation being a vital component. The Prime Minister also noted in his letter that India has always assisted Maldives in the latter’s time of need.
In his reply, Yameen also reiterated standing invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Maldives. Modi had skipped Maldives in his Indian Ocean sojourn to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, when the opposition had held frequent street protests to demand the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Sources indicated that there was no reason that Modi could not visit Maldives, if relations continued to improve and there were no concerns about any harm against Indian interests.