NEW DELHI: After India suffered a a series of reverses in the past few weeks in the neighbourhood, all against the backdrop of growing Chinese presence in the region, New Delhi said on Thursday that it expects the Maldives and Sri Lanka to keep in mind India’s concerns.
The Maldives recently signed an FTA with Beijing without bothering to make the contents of the agreement public. “We have seen reports about the Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement. The reports have also alluded to the manner in which the FTA was passed by the Majlis. We are yet to see the document, and hence, it will not be appropriate for me to speculate on it,” said ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
“As you are aware, India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Maldives. Our two countries have strong historical and civilisation linkages at the people-to-people level. We are also committed to supporting democracy, development and stability in Maldives. It is our expectation that as a close and friendly neighbour, Maldives will be sensitive to our concerns in keeping with its ‘India First’ policy,” Kumar added.
In an interaction with TOI, former Maldivian president and leader of main opposition party MDP, Mohamed Nasheed, slammed the agreement saying it wasn’t just against Maldivian national interest but something which will upset ‘traditional allies’ of the country causing further tension in the Indian Ocean region.
Kumar also responded to a query on Sri Lanka’s decision to hand over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease last week, saying India expected Lanka to keep the region’s security concerns in mind.
“Our relationship with Sri Lanka stand on its own and is not dependent on our relations with any third country. We continue to take up with Sri Lanka issues related to the security concerns in the region and expect that our Sri Lankan friends will keep in mind our security concerns and sensitivities,” he said. Source : timesofindia