Indian Ocean posing serious concern: Maldives Prez

Maldivian President has said it is posing increasingly "serious" concern as highlighted by the Mumbai attacks and favoured a framework agreement with India to take care of security and other issues.

New Delhi: Viewing Indian Ocean as India`s
"soft belly", Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has said it
is posing increasingly "serious" concern as highlighted by the
Mumbai attacks and favoured a framework agreement with India
to take care of security and other issues.

He sought to allay concerns here that Maldives could
be used as a route to attack India although he acknowledged
that some nationals of his country were getting terror
training in Pakistan and some other countries.

"Terrorism issue is apolitical. We have to get a good
grip on it," Nasheed told a news agency in an interview while talking
about the menace which is a cause of concern for the region
and beyond.

"Security issues in Indian Ocean have lately been
getting more and more serious...I mean we see the Mumbai
attack also as an Indian ocean issue," he said.

Noting that "India`s soft belly is through Indian
Ocean" and no government in Delhi would be comfortable with it
being exposed, he said Maldives and India are undertaking
coordinated patrolling of the maritime areas.

"We have an understanding with India in patrolling...
it is happening," he said, adding India had also lent a
helicopter for aerial surveillance of the Indian Ocean region.

Nasheed, who was here on a three-day visit during
which he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, favoured
a framework agreement with India to take care of all issues
encompassing relations between the two countries.

"Maldives and India have several agreements but it
would be better if the two countries can have one
comprehensive pact to deal with all security and other
issues," the 43-year-old President said in the interview parts
of which were issued earlier this week. "Basically, we want just one agreement- framework.

A framework understanding. We have endless
understandings and you end up not knowing what we have agreed
upon. So, if we can boil it down to one agreement. We should
have one basic agreement," Nasheed elaborated.

The President was asked about reports that Maldives is
witnessing growth of fundamentalist activities with Pakistani
links, raising concerns here that the island nation could be
used by terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba to attack India.

He insisted that LeT has no presence in Maldives but
acknowledged the "serious" issue of emergence of some radical
groups whose cadres are being trained in Pakistan.

The President, however, ruled out the possibility of
any terror group using Maldives route to attack India, saying
his country had good border control systems in place.

There are groups which are "growing and forming
themselves and they go to Pakistan and other countries and get
recruited and trained and come back home," he said, adding his
government is dealing with such elements, including through
reformation process.

About four years back, a bomb exploded in Maldives
capital Male and the seven people suspected behind the
incident had fled to Pakistan where they had undergone
training.

Nasheed also talked about the growing menace of piracy
that is being witnessed in the Indian Ocean region and said it
needs to be dealt with through joint efforts.

PTI

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