Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on Friday extended his greetings to India on the occasion of its 75th Republic Day, amid a diplomatic row between the two countries over a controversial tweet by a Maldivian MP.
Shahid took to Twitter to share a video message, in which he said that Maldives and India share “centuries of friendship and cooperation” and expressed his hope for further strengthening the bilateral ties.
“I would like to extend my warmest greetings and best wishes to the government and the people of India on the 75th anniversary of the Republic Day of India,” Shahid said.
He added that India is not only a close neighbour, but also a “strategic partner and a reliable friend” of Maldives.
“India has always been there for Maldives in times of need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. India was the first country to provide assistance to Maldives, including essential medical supplies, financial assistance and vaccines,” he said.
Shahid also thanked India for its role in the Maldives-India Cargo Ferry Service, which he said has “significantly enhanced” the trade and connectivity between the two countries.
He further said that Maldives looks forward to working with India on various areas of mutual interest, such as climate change, maritime security, counter-terrorism and regional stability.
“Maldives and India have a special relationship based on mutual respect, trust and understanding. I am confident that our partnership will continue to grow from strength to strength in the years ahead,” he concluded.
The message comes amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries over a tweet by Maldivian MP and former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem, who had criticised India for allegedly interfering in the internal affairs of Nepal.
Naseem had tweeted on January 23 that India should “refrain from undermining” the sovereignty of Nepal, after India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar visited Kathmandu and held talks with the Nepalese leadership.
The tweet had sparked a backlash from Indian netizens, who accused Naseem of being “ungrateful” and “hypocritical” for biting the hand that feeds him.
Some Indian users also called for a boycott of Maldives tourism, which is a major source of revenue for the island nation.
The Maldivian government had distanced itself from Naseem’s tweet, saying that it does not reflect the official position of Maldives.
The Indian government had also downplayed the controversy, saying that it does not attach any importance to the “individual opinion” of Naseem.
India and Maldives have enjoyed close and cordial relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1965.
India is one of the largest development partners of Maldives, with several projects in the fields of infrastructure, health, education, defence and connectivity.
India is also the first country to recognise Maldives as a sovereign nation and the first to establish a resident mission in Male.
Maldives is also a key partner of India in the Indian Ocean Region and a member of the India-initiated Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).