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SOURCE: IANS

Terming it as a “historic event”, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu said on Saturday that he will be “honoured” to attend Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Muizzu was presented the letter of invitation by India’s High Commissioner to Maldives Munu Mahawar during a courtesy call at the President’s Office on Saturday.

As he accepted the invitation, the Maldivian President expressed his gratitude to PM Modi, stating that he would be honoured to attend the historic event marking his third swearing-in as Prime Minister of India.

“He also stated that he looks forward to working with the Prime Minister to further strengthen the close relations with India, noting that Maldives-India relations is heading in the positive direction, as would be demonstrated by this visit,” Muizzu’s office said on Saturday.

The visit is expected to have some positive impact on the strained India-Maldives ties since Muizzu, labeled as a pro-China candidate who had vowed to reduce New Delhi’s influence, came to power in the island country, last year.

India, however, had always viewed Maldives as a key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), saying that it occupies a special place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SAGAR or ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ and the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar has maintained that the ties between the two countries are based on “mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity”.

While attending various events during the election campaign over the past couple of months, Jaishankar has also insisted that the solution to the precarious situation would come through diplomacy only.

“We have to make people understand, sometimes people don’t even have complete knowledge of things, sometimes people get misguided on what others say,” said Jaishankar a few weeks ago.

Last month, during Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer’s visit to New Delhi – his first to India since assuming office – India made it clear that it is in “common interest” that both countries reach an understanding on taking the relationship forward.

New Delhi also reminded the Muizzu government that India has been a key provider of development assistance to the Maldives.

“Our projects have benefited the lives of people of your country and contributed directly to the quality of life. They range from infrastructure projects and social initiatives to medical evacuation and health facilities. We have also extended financial support on favourable terms in the past. India has been a First Responder on numerous occasions for Maldives. Our cooperation has also enhanced the security and well-being of your country through shared activities, equipment provisioning, capacity building and training,” said Jaishankar during his meeting with Zameer.

Despite the recent sour ties, India continues to export essential goods, including sugar, wheat, rice, onions and eggs to Maldives as a goodwill gesture.

Apart from that, India has also allowed exports of one million tonnes each of stone aggregate and river sand used as construction material.

The Muizzu government has also tried to seek concessions on loan repayments from India, which reflects the Indian Ocean archipelago’s dependence on its larger neighbour.

In April, while extending his greetings to the Maldives President on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr, PM Modi highlighted the cultural and civilisational linkages shared by the two nations.