Maldivian defence minister Mariya Didi is scheduled to visit India from January 23 to 30. and meet Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This is for the first time that both nations are represented by female defence ministers and probably the first time in the region.
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Didi stated, “It is my first trip to India as the Maldivian Minister for Defence and I look forward to fruitful discussions with my Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. I understand this is the first time in the history of the region that there is going to be a meeting between two female defence ministers.”
On security cooperation, she said, “From time immemorial we have traditionally enjoyed close ties with India. I believe it is in our respective self-interest to continue to do so. Our security co-operation helps to keep us safe and combats a variety of problems from fish poaching to piracy and smuggling.”
Her visit comes a month after Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih visited India, making her trip the third high-level visit from the new Maldivian government.
During President Solih’s India visit in December, India had announced financial assistance up to $1.4 billion to the island nation.
Relations under former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration and New Delhi had suffered, especially since Yameen junked ‘India First’ policy for a pro-Beijing policy. Yameen even wanted New Delhi to take back 2 helicopters it had gifted. Speaking to WION, immediately after taking charge, Mariya had said the helicopters will not be given back and “It’s not in our culture to ask neighbours to take back what they give.”
PM Modi had visited the Maldives in November 2018 to take part in the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih. During the bilateral meeting, both the leaders agreed on the “importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean” and “being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region.”