New Delhi: The Maldives seems set to improve its relations with India now that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is in the saddle. On his maiden visit to India, Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said, “The manner in which the people of Maldives received PM Modi is clear evidence that he is most welcome. Warmth, sincerity and a conducive environment in which PM Modi and President Solih discussed issues was the signal of a new era of Maldives-India relations.”

Shahid has been in the country since Saturday on a four-day visit. Speaking about how the relations between the two government had soured during the previous regime of General Abdulla Yameen, Shahid said, “The previous Government under Yameen increased anti-India sentiments for their own purpose, we will change it, the people of Maldives do not support this. Our Government will make sure that Maldives-India relationship is on a better footing.”

Speaking to ANI, Shahid also sought to set the record straight on the status of helicopters which had been gifted by India. “Helicopters generously donated by India to the Maldivian Government are being used for humanitarian purposes. In the last several years, 164 ppl have been airlifted. We are grateful to India for this and will continue to engage with India for all our requirements,” he said.

On India’s role in the development of Maldives, Shahid said, “India is the largest contributor for decades of our development. China contributes largest tourist arrivals and has been generous in assistance. We will not compare friends but we have friends and special friends. India will always be a special friend.”

Meanwhile, The Times of India quoted Shahid as saying that the Maldives was was still trying to study the implications of the debt accumulated by the previous Abdulla Yameen government as figures provided by government officials on foreign debt did not necessarily “tally with the Chinese estimates”. The Maldives is said to owe close to 70 per cent of its external debt to China.

The island nation also looks to India to help it tide over the debt. “We hope that India will be generous enough to help us with the initial management of any shortfall we might face. We know that the Indian government is fully equipped to help us deal with issues like fresh water scarcity, sewerage and with our focus on the health sector,” Shahid was quoted as saying by the daily.