Close to China but India ties precious: Maldives President

Abdulla YameenAbdulla Yameen

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on Sunday described the island nation's relationship with China as "very close" but assured India that his country's ties with it are "far more precious".

Yameen, who was elected President less than two months ago, told PTI in an interview here that he had assured Indian leaders during his just-concluded visit that ties with India were based on "sentiments". It is a "heartfelt" relationship, he said. Answering a question on the perception that his country was getting close to China, he replied, "I would like to tell you that the relationship we have with China is very close." But ties with India "will precede any other relationship", he said.

India has been concerned over the growing proximity between Maldives and China in a number of strategic areas including on security issues.

The security agencies here have repeatedly been saying that the 'Marao Island' which was leased by Maldives to China in 1999 for maritime traffic management was also being used by the Chinese to monitor Indian and US warships in the Indian Ocean, and in future could be developed into a submarine base.

Talking about his discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Yameen said, "India's primary concern has been security in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean and our views on the issues are exactly similar to India's views."

"So, it was not a difficult proposition at all. We have agreed and we have exchanged views on areas of concern such as security, fighting against terrorism and fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean," he said.

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