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'Maldives sees India as a favoured big brother'

Last updated on: November 13, 2011 00:38 IST

'Maldives sees India as a favoured big brother'

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Prasanna D Zore

Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore witnessed history being written when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the Maldivian parliament -- the first foreign dignitary to do so since the People's Majlis came into being in 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created history on Saturday when he became the first head of the state to address the Maldivian Parliament, the People's Majlis.

Addressing the 77-member Majlis that includes five women parliamentarians, Dr Singh said, "The People's Majlis is a testimony to the strong faith the people of Maldives have shown in democracy. As a fellow democracy we take delight in your achievements."

While India and Maldives have been traditional friends, cooperating with each other on the issues of terrorism, drug trafficking, trade and economic development, Saturday's speech will further enhance relations between the two Indian Ocean neighbours.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the People's Majlis

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"We have a long-standing relationship with India where Maldives has looked upon India as a favoured big brother," Eva Abdulla, parliamentarian from Villimafannu in central Male and Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed's sister told rediff.com reflecting upon how much the island nation values India's friendship.

Dr Singh, after his historic address that lasted 25 minutes, stood at the centre of the Majlis even as the MPs queued up to shake hands and exchange a few words with him.

"I told him I welcome him to my country in my personal capacity and also as a member of the Majlis," Ahmed Nihan, who belongs to the opposition PPM party, told rediff.com, adding, "Since there was a long line of people behind me I thought it unwise to hold a long conversation with him."

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Image: Dr Singh being given a golden plate by Abdulla Shahid, Speaker of the Majlis

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Earlier, during a bilateral meeting with the Maldivian President, India signed four important agreements that will go a long way in further fostering trade, economic and security ties between the two nations.

Eva said that Maldives will remain thankful to India for increasing the amount of aid to $100 million. The reduction of the sensitive items list from 480 to just 25, which also became the part of Addu Declaration, has also gone down well with the representatives of the People's Majlis.

Eva, however, said that she would look forward to India's aid in building the health infrastructure of the country and applauded Dr Singh for undertaking a major renovation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male.

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Image: Dr Singh shaking hands with Majlis MPs

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"We would like India to further increase its health footprint in my country," said Ahmed while expressing his unhappiness over Dr Singh not speaking on suppression of democracy by President Nasheed in Maldives.

"We cannot openly enjoy the freedom that you people have in India," he said.

Eva, however, was all praise for India's efforts to help Maldives in the field of education.

"Collaboration on educational initiatives between University of Maldives and various universities of India and setting up of South Asian University in Delhi would help the youth in Maldives get access to quality higher education," said Eva who studied in Sri Lanka and England.

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Image: The Maldivian Parliament building

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So what did Eva say when she met India's prime minister?

"Well, I had learned a few words in Hindi before meeting the prime minister," says Eva coyly.

"I told him in Hindi: aap se milkar bohut khushi hui (I am glad to meet you), to which he replied in the same language that I could not understand. I told him 'Sir, I didn't get what you said. I had learned a few words in your language to show off'," she said and both Dr Singh and Eva laughed at the banter.

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Image: Eva Abdulla

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