India, Maldives discuss mutual investment protection

New Delhi, Jan 2 : India and Maldives have launched negotiations on an agreement for promotion and protection of bilateral investment.

This was announced at a meeting here of Indian corporates with visiting Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

"I believe that mutual investment promotion is of utmost importance for developing business between our two countries," the Maldivian president told the gathering.

"Both leaders (Maldives President Abdulla Yameen and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) have come forward to promote negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), which in the near future will give robust economic development," Minister of State for Commerce E.M.S. Natchiappan told the gathering.

Such an agreement has assumed urgency in view of the strains created by the previous Maldivian government's decision to cancel the $500 million contract with India's GMR Group for Male airport in December 2012.

The second major initiative was the lifting of the ban on the export of stones to the Maldives.

"The ban on stone supplies was an irritant in our relations till a short time ago. This has now been lifted as of 1-1-2014," Natchiappan said.

The Maldivian president welcomed the step as the stones were critical to the construction industry in his country.

Yameen invited Indian investment into his country, only "a stone's throw away from India". He highlighted corporate India's long association with his country, pointing out that the first Indian corporate to open an office in the Maldives was the State Bank of India over 35 years ago.

Since then the number of Indian companies in the Maldives has grown significantly, while groups like Tatas and GMR have become big investors in the island nation.

Trade between India and the Maldives currently is worth around $128 million, with the balance heavily in favour of India.

--IANS (Posted on 02-01-2014)

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