November 10, 2020 1:56:55 am
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday met Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and discussed the pace of progress in infrastructure projects being implemented in that nation with India’s help.
Commencing his two-day visit to Male’, Shringla called on Solih and briefed him on the satisfactory status of implementation of decisions taken during the high-level interactions held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Maldivian president in December 2018 and June 2019.
Shringla elaborated on the progress made on the implementation of eight large infrastructure projects in the Maldives under Indian Lines of Credit. It is expected that five of these infrastructure projects will commence in the next two months.
Solih expressed his deep appreciation for the support received from India in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular the $250 million financial assistance provided in September as budget support.
Shringla’s two-day visit to Male’ is the first high-level bilateral visit from India to the Maldives this year. His visit follows an interaction on August 13 held between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid via video conference. Earlier in April, Modi and Solih had interacted via a video-conference to discuss assistance to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shringla later met Foreign Minister Shahid, with whom he witnessed the signing of an agreement for extending a $100-million grant to the Maldives to part-finance the Greater Male’ Connectivity Project. MoUs on setting up of a Drug-Detox Centre in Addu City and upgrading the Agricultural Research Centre in Hanimaadhoo were also concluded.
The Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s decision to support Shahid’s candidature for the post of President of the 76th United Nations General Assembly Session for the year 2021-22.
During his meeting with Maldives Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Shringla acknowledged his long-standing support to the strengthening of India-Maldives bilateral relations. He also appraised him on capacity building support being provided by the Parliament of India to the People’s Majlis. The Foreign Secretary extended an invitation to the Maljis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, which the Speaker accepted.
Shringla also met Maldives Defence Minister Uza Mariya Ahmed Didi and briefed her on the state of bilateral defence cooperation, including joint EEZ surveillance, joint military exercises and HADR. “Both sides highlighted their shared interests in the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Foreign Secretary underscored India’s commitment to continue working together with the Maldives to promote security and stability of the region,” an official said.
The Foreign Secretary also complimented Maldives Tourism Minister Dr Abdullah Mausoom for successful efforts resulting in the steady increase in tourist arrivals to the nation, placing the recovery of the tourism industry on a strong footing.
He also expressed his satisfaction at the functioning of the visa free agreement signed in March 2019 and the bilateral Air Travel Bubble established in August this year, which now connects five Indian cities with Male’ through 13 weekly flights. Tourist arrivals from India have shown a steep upward trend in October.
The Foreign Secretary reviewed the state of bilateral relations along with his Maldivian counterpart Abdul Ghafoor. They discussed respective national approaches to dealing with the challenges of the Covid-19- pandemic. Ghafoor conveyed his government’s appreciation for India’s substantial assistance to the Maldives to tide over the effects of the pandemic. They positively assessed the robust growth in the diverse planks of our bilateral ties including development partnership, health cooperation, connectivity, trade and economic relations.
Later in the day, Shringla participated in an event to hand over equipment for the setting up of Children’s Parks in 67 islands spread out across the Atolls. He also visited the site of the Ekuveni ground in Male’, where a new running track is being laid out funded by an Indian grant. Both these projects are included in the roughly 30 projects being implemented in the Maldives under the Rs 90 crores ($13 million) grant assistance from India.
Speaking at the event, Foreign Secretary also noted that the Maldives will be among the first countries to receive Covid-19 vaccines as soon as one is developed in India
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