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New Maldives president visiting India on New Year day

The new president of Maldives Abdulla Yameen would be visiting India Jan 1-4 on his first official visit abroad after assuming office in November this year.

The president, the half-brother of former long-time president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is the sixth president of Maldives. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader won the presidential run off Nov 16.

The visit would also be the first to India in the new year by any head of government or state.

President Yameen would be accompanied by his wife Fathimath Ibrahim and a high level delegation.

"The visit would provide an opportunity to further enhance the close and multifaceted relations between India and the Maldives," said an official statement from the ministry of external affairs.

President Pranab Mukherjee will host a banquet in honour of President Yameen Jan 2.

Bilateral discussions with Prime Minster Manmohan Singh are also scheduled for that day. 

The Maldives president will visit Udaipur and Agra during the visit.

Maldives and India are expected to conclude bilateral agreements in the areas of health and visa facilitation. 

On Sunday, in Male, President Yameen met with a visiting delegation from the State Bank of India, from its headquarters in Mumbai. 

The president highlighted that State Bank of India was the longest serving bank in the Maldives and expressed appreciation for the bank's support of the development of his country. 

The president briefed the delegation on investment opportunities available in the Maldives and also discussed ways to improve the investment climate of the Indian Ocean atoll nation, according to a press statement from the Maldivian president's office.

The presidential delegation is set to include the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Health Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor, Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed and Minister of Economic Development, Mohamed Saeed. Parliamentarians Qasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party and Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, Maldives Development Alliance leader, would also accompany the delegation.

The traditionally close ties between India and Maldives had come under strain following cancellation in December 2012 of a deal to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male by India's GMR. The $500 million contract was the largest Indian FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in the Maldives. The deal was cancelled by the earlier government, of which the PPM was a partner.

India had voiced unhappiness over the cancellation.

India is keen to build bridges with the new government of Yameen.

In the run-off, Yameen had polled about three percent votes higher than his rival, Maldivian Democratic Party's Mohamed Nasheed, Maldives' first democratically elected president who had to step down early 2012 in what he said was a coup.

India had been swift to congratulate Yameen after he won the presidential run-off and said it looks forward to cooperating with him and his government.

President Yameen has said his country's relations with India were a priority.