Army Chief Gen Rawat on 5-day Maldives visit from Sunday

File Photo

New Delhi: Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat will travel to the Maldives on a five-day visit beginning Sunday with a key focus on boosting India’s overall defence and security cooperation with the strategically located island nation.

Official sources said Gen Rawat will hold wide-ranging discussions with Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Chief of Defence Forces of Maldives Gen Abdulla Shamaal and explore ways to further deepen bilateral military cooperation.

The Army Chief will also call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The focus of Gen Rawat’s visit to the Maldives will be to further expand bilateral military engagement, the sources said.

In Maldivian capital city of Male, Gen Rawat will also deliver a lecture on India’s security perspective for the region.

It will be Gen Rawat’s first foreign visit after taking charge as Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) from outgoing IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Friday.

Defence and security ties between the two countries were back on track after Solih became president of Maldives in November last year defeating Abdulla Yameen in the elections.

Yameen was perceived to be close to China as Beijing expanded its influence over Maldives during his presidency.

The relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the Yameen imposed emergency in the country on February 5 last year.

India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency had lasted for 45 days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Maldives in November last year to attend Solih’s swearing-in ceremony. Modi paid a bilateral visit to Maldives in June, which was his first foreign visit after re-election as prime minister.

The visit reflected the importance India attaches to the Maldives.

During the visit, Modi inaugurated a coastal surveillance radar system and a composite training centre for the Maldivian defence forces.

The Indian Ocean island nation is an important neighbour for India and both countries were enhancing defence and security cooperation, particularly in the maritime sphere.