Maldivian Prez Waheed to visit India on May 11

Male: Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed will fly to India on Friday on his first foreign trip abroad to meet the top Indian leadership, during which he will discuss key bilateral issues including defence cooperation. As he cements his government`s position following a tumultuous takeover in February, Waheed will hold crucial talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pratibha Patil and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna in New Delhi.

A senior Maldivian government source told PTI that the President would leave Male on May 11. "The defence cooperation between Maldives and India would be a key issue during the president`s visit," the source said. Waheed, the then vice president, had succeeded Mohamed Nasheed as President, who was ousted on February 7 after weeks of public protests following his action to arrest a judge.

Nasheed claimed he was removed in a "coup" and his party has urged an independent investigation into the events of February 7. India sent its Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai to defuse tensions immediately after the upheaval and under a deal brokered by him the government announced that it will hold early elections. However, the Maldivian Democratic Party`s call for early elections to end the political impasse has been resisted by Waheed`s administration.

Waheed`s advisor Hassan Saeed said a number of issues will be discussed during the President`s visit. He said assurances of close ties between the two countries will be reiterated. "Maldives and India have close ties. This is President`s first visit to any foreign country. He has actually delayed invitations from other friendly countries to come to India first," Saeed said.