Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed today said that his country's ties with India were important for its economic growth and security.
"Given our long relationship with your country, we have always had an India-first policy. We can achieve rapid development only by plugging into India's development. Our defence ties with India are very important too. The Indian Army Chief often visits Maldives, and he is very welcome there. Our ties with India are important for our economic growth as well as our security and stability," said Mr Nasheed, who is on a two-day visit to the country for the World Economic Forum India Summit.
The politician, who is currently the speaker of the Maldivian parliament, was speaking on the country's defence and economic ties with India. He was also appreciative of the Indian government's efforts to train Maldivians in cricket, so as to promote the game in the South Asian archipelago.
Incidentally, Army Chief Bipin Rawat is currently on a five-day visit to Maldives in order to boost its military ties with India. PM Modi had also dropped by Maldives in June, as part of his first visit abroad after re-election.
Maldives, situated in the Arabian Sea, is of strategic importance to India.
Last month, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar announced that Maldives had requested India's help for training its sportspersons in cricket. The centre agreed to the request, and the training session is set to begin this month.
"Indian cricketers have always visited Maldives. In fact, former Indian cricket team captain Ajit Wadekar taught me the game. We've always had Indian captains coming to Maldives. The Maldivian government lost focus in developing the game in the last decade, but we are restarting that. The Indian government is also helping us build a cricket stadium in Maldives. We are hoping this leads to something positive," Mr Nasheed told NDTV, adding in a lighter vein that Maldives hopes to beat India in cricket someday.
When Ajit Wadekar died in August 2018, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had also expressed his condolences in a sentimental tweet. "Saddened by the news earlier this week of the passing of Indian international cricketer Ajit Wadekar. Privileged to count him as my first cricket coach," he said.
During a session on "Development in the Indo-Pacific region" at the summit, Mr Nasheed had claimed that India holds a "Hindu lotus position" that makes projecting its power difficult. When asked to explain, he told NDTV: "India is such a peaceful and non-violent country that it's locked in a peaceful lotus position. The country is finding it difficult to project its military might. India is currently winning through smart power."