New Delhi, Jan 28 : Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh will begin a three-day visit to the Maldives from tomorrow as part of his drive to expand trade and investment ties within SAARC.
The visit assumes significance in light of the forthcoming SAFTA Ministerial meeting in New Delhi on March 1 and 2.
Ramesh will review the working of the Indo-Maldives Trade Agreement of 1981 in light of the changes that have taken place in the economies of both countries. India supplies essential commodities like rice, wheat flour, eggs, potatoes, stones and sand as part of this agreement.
Even though wheat exports from India are banned, as a measure of the importance it attaches to SAARC in general and Maldives in particular, India supplies wheat flour to Maldives.
Ramesh's visit is to explore how India can expand its trade and investment presence in Maldives, a country of great strategic significance to it.
Fisheries is one important area for bilateral cooperation that is proposed to be discussed during his visit.
Cooperation in tuna is one specific area that will be discussed now that India has also announced major plans to develop its tuna resources, particularly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
In addition, Maldives has sought India's assistance to develop it as a trans-shipment and logistics hub because of its strategic location. Maldives has also expressed in expanding the scope of training in IT.
India accounts for around 10-11 per cent of Maldives imports, next to Singapore and Sri Lanka and is on par with UAE.
Exports from India to Maldives are presently in the region of about 100 million dollars. Singapore accounts for almost 90 per cent of the FDI into Maldives, followed by Malaysia.