India hails announcement of Maldives polls in Oct

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New Delhi, Sep 18 (UNI) India today welcomed the announcement of holding of the first multi-Party elections in the Maldives, a traditionally Presidential form of government, in October.

The announcement comes on the eve of the talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid here tomorrow.

The two countries will sign two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) on Manpower Requirements of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Male, and for the establishment of India-Maldives Foundation.

The MOUs will be signed here tomorrow after talks between the External Affairs Minister and the Maldivian Foreign Minister who arrives here later this evening on a two-day official visit to India for talks with the External Affairs Minister on various bilateral matters and regional and international issues.

The Maldives, which has had a traditionally Presidential form of Government, ratified its new Constitution in August and will hold its first multi-Party Presidential elections in October. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been the Indian Ocean island country's President since 1978.

Sources said the Maldivian Foreign Minister will also seek India's assistance in conducting ''free and fair'' elections.

The Maldivian Election Commission announced yesterday that elections would now be held on October 8 and the results would be announced the next day. The elections were earlier scheduled to be held on Octover 4.

India and the Maldives have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations given the historical, ethnic and cultural ties. Over the years, this relationship has blossomed into a multi-faceted one encompassing a range of areas, the External Affairs Ministry said today.

''India is committed to enhancing these ties and assisting the Maldives in its various developmental efforts,'' the Ministry said while welcoming the ratification of the new Constitution and the proposed first multi-party Presidential elections.

India is engaged in the development of infrastructural facilities in Maldives through its technical and economic assistance programmes.

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Male, set up in 1995 with Indian assistance, symbolises the essence of India-Maldives cooperation.

The MOUs will continue the close links between India and the hospital and meet much of Maldives manpower and training needs in the areas of health and medicine.

The MOU on the establishment of the India-Maldives Foundation envisages a corpus of Rs two crore to be used by the two countries to undertake a range of activities for bringing the peoples of the two countries closer.

India is also assisting in setting up of the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies in Maldives. After its completion, the Faculty is expected to substantially meet Maldivian requirements in tourism.

On September 20, Mr Shahid will visit Bangalore.

UNI RB AE AS1622

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