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'Will consider only if...': MEA rejects Maldives minister's 'India seeking FTA with Male' claim

Denying reports of offering any Free Trade Agreement (FTA) proposals to Maldives, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that if Maldives is considering FTA with India, it will surely be looked into.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Published on: May 30, 2024 19:08 IST
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu with PM Modi
Image Source : REUTERS/FILE Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu with PM Modi

The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday rejected media reports claiming India is seeking a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Maldives. However, it stressed if Male wishes, India will consider it.  The comment from MEA Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal came as media reports claimed that the Indian government had offered an FTA proposal to the Maldivian government.

"On Maldives, we have seen some reports of the Minister speaking about we (India) offering FTA. We haven't done so. If Maldives is considering FTA with us, we will surely look into it," Jaiswal said during the weekly presser.

Earlier on Saturday, Maldives said India initiated efforts to create a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries and deliberations were ongoing for achieving it. “They (India) want there to be a Free Trade Agreement with the Maldives, in addition to SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement),” Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed told a press conference in Male. The Maldives President has offered this opportunity to all countries, Saeed said, adding that the government aims to enter into agreements with as many countries as possible to offer ease in trade activities.

India-Maldives trade agreement 

The 1981 India and Maldives trade agreement provides for the export of essential commodities. According to the records from the Indian High Commission, growing from modest beginnings, India-Maldives bilateral trade crossed USD 300 million for the first time in 2021, which further crossed the USD 500 million mark in 2022. Even without an FTA, India has offered concessions on several products to the Maldives, news portal Edition.mv quoted the minister as saying.

Another news portal Sun.mv reported that despite revealing India's proposal for the FTA, Saeed did not disclose further information about the high-level meeting between him and the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Munu Mahawar. The two had discussed further strengthening the cooperative ties of both nations in multiple areas, the report said.

Describing the past agreements, the portal said Maldives had entered into an FTA with China during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration but his successor, former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had criticised the agreement and did not honour it.

The Maldives-China FTA breathed new life after Muizzu took charge as Maldives President in November 2023, the Sun.mv said, adding, “The incumbent President said the agreement was a symbol of strong relations between the Maldives and China and his administration was ready to continue honouring the agreement.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also Read: India negotiating free trade agreement with Maldives despite turbulent relations with Muizzu: Reports

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