India, Maldives to combat piracy, expand economic ties

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NEW DELHI - Amid reports of Somali pirates heading into Asian waters, India and the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago known for its idyllic beach resorts, Thursday discussed steps to intensify anti-piracy cooperation and decided to scale up bilateral trade and investment.

Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed, who began a three-day visit to India Wednesday, met External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and discussed a host of issues, including steps to expand maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

The two also discussed counter-terrorism, intensifying economic cooperation and India’s developmental assistance.

Climate change also figured prominently in the discussions. This is an issue of existential importance for the Maldives, one of the world’s lowest-lying island nations that faces the prospect of extinction in case of a perceptible surge in sea levels triggered by global warming.

In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country practically uninhabitable.

In a gesture that underscored the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in India’s foreign policy calculus, Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chair Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, went over to meet Nasheed at his suite in the Oberoi hotel.

Amid preparations for Monday’s budget, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also found time to call on the visiting president and discuseed India’s interest in bolstering infrastructure in that country.

Nasheed will hold discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh before he heads to Colombo Friday evening.

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