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Freedom of navigation in Indian Ocean is must: Maldives Foreign Minister

New Delhi: Stating that "freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean is a must", Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on Friday said the country will do everything possible to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Talking exclusively to ANI, Abdulla Shahid said, "Freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean is a must because it connects countries, and because of the critical nature of where Maldives is located." "Maldives is at the heart of the Indian Ocean, and that is why for us, a peaceful, prosperous, and stable Indian Ocean is essential, and we will do everything possible to make sure that it is maintained so," he added.

He said that the Maldives will be affected first in case of any instability in the region.
"Because of instability in the Indian Ocean, we will be affected first, and that is why we partner with our neighbours including Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius and Bangladesh for the Indian Ocean Rim Association to work together, to bring everyone together because it is in our interest to maintain prosperity in the Indian Ocean," he said.
Further on being asked about comparisons between Maldives' relations with India and with China, he said that Maldives is a friend to all but not anyone's enemy.
"For Maldives, India is special, and our foreign policy is based on 'India First', but we have no enemies and we work with everyone. China has been a development partner of Maldives for a long time. They have been generous, and you can see them in many projects through Chinese assistance and soft loans, and so would you see many projects and soft loans from the Middle East, and different parts of the world. So, Maldives is no enemy of anyone, but a friend to all," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, India welcomed the Foreign Ministers' of Bhutan, Croatia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Sweden to New Delhi, for participating in the eighth edition of Raisina Dialogue.
Bhutan Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman, Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, and Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom reached for India's flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-strategy. (ANI)

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