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Maldives Minister says India seeking a free trade deal with island nation

India Today - 26 May 2024

Maldives Minister says India seeking a free trade deal with island nation
By: Sharangee Dutta

India has initiated efforts to create a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Maldives, Maldivian Minister Mohamed Saeed has said. Addressing a press conference in Male, Saeed, who is the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, further stated that deliberations regarding the FTA are currently underway.

"They (India) want there to be a Free Trade Agreement with (the) Maldives, in addition to SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement)," Mohamed Saeed said, news agency PTI reported.

He said that Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has offered the opportunity for a free trade deal with the island nation to all countries, adding that the government aims to enter into agreements with as many countries as possible to enjoy ease in trade activities.

The reported effort to seek a free trade deal with the Maldives comes amid strained diplomatic ties between the two countries since November last year after several Maldivian ministers mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lakshadweep visit. The ordeal, an online skirmish, unfolded amid Muizzu’s pro-China inclinations and orders to Indian troops to leave the Maldives.

The last of the Indian military personnel were replaced by civilians earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the 1981 India-Maldives trade agreement facilitates the export of essential commodities. Records from the Indian High Commission showed, according to news agency PTI, that India-Maldives bilateral trade surpassed $300 million for the first time in 2021 and then further exceeded $500 million the following year.

Despite the diplomatic row, in May, in a goodwill gesture, India announced to extend vital budgetary support to the Maldives government with the rollover of a $50 million Treasury Bill for another year on the Maldivian government’s special request.

 source: India Today