The Indian government has denied claims by Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed that bilateral discussions had been initiated between the Maldives and India on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Spokesperson at India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Randhir Jaiswal denied the reports during an MEA press conference on Thursday.

Jaiswal said that, while India was aware of claims by the minister that India had offered to negotiate an FTA, no such matter was discussed.

“If the Maldives wants to set up such an agreement with us, we will certainly look into it,” he said.

Saeed had, however, on Saturday, announced during a press briefing that an FTA was in the works, with India having already initiated discussions.

“In my recent talks with India, they want to have a free trade agreement with Maldives separately, in addition to SAFTA. The President wants to have that opportunity with all countries,” Saeed said.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) already has in place the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), a free trade arrangement which came into force in 2006 which succeeded the 1993 SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement.

While SAFTA aims to empower economic and trade development on a regional level, the Maldives does not have a significantly similar bilateral agreement with any regional nation.