NEW DELHI: Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has reportedly written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assure him that there will be no militarisation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
It is learnt that the assurance was in a letter that the Maldivian Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed handed over to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday evening. As per sources, Yameen’s missive was in response to Modi’s letter that had been handed over by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who was in Maldives earlier this week.
The assertion that Maldives will not take any step towards militarisation 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 Beijing to gain a foothold in Male, and eventually, lead to a military base. Jaishankar had even summoned the Maldivian Ambassador Ahmed Mohamed to the South Block on the evening that Male Parliament approved the Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Earlier last month, Yameen had publicly give a similar assurance after he ratified the Constitutional Amendment that was passed by the archipelago nation’s Parliament. “The Maldivian government has given assurances to Indian government and our neighbouring countries as well to keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone,” Yamee had 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 hour of need.
In his reply, Yameen also reiterated the 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 the country’s former President Mohamed Nasheed.