Updated: 02 August 2022 17:13 STI
New Delhi [India]Aug 2 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday stressed that the Maldives holds a special place in the hearts of Indians and also in the country’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy, as he reaffirmed close ties with the island nation in a range of areas.
Modi made the remarks during Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s visit to India. It was Solih’s third visit to India since taking office on November 17, 2018.
During the visit, Solih held restricted and delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Modi during which the two leaders expressed their satisfaction with the rapid expansion of the bilateral partnership in recent years. The two leaders reiterated their commitment to further strengthen and deepen ties.
“The India-Maldives bilateral partnership is underpinned by geographical proximity, historical, cultural ties and shared values. Prime Minister Modi stressed that the Maldives holds a special place in the hearts of Indians and in India’s ‘neighborhood’ policy. President Solih has reaffirmed his government’s ‘India First Policy’,” the MEA said in a statement.
President Solih thanked Prime Minister Modi and for supporting the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic. India’s medical and financial assistance has helped the Maldives weather the health and economic fallout from the pandemic.
The two leaders agreed to further deepen institutional ties for cooperation in defense and security, investment promotion, human resource development, infrastructure development, including climate and energy. energy.
They welcomed the growth of people-to-people ties through the implementation of visa-free travel, better air connectivity, exchange programs and growing cultural and economic ties. India has become the main source of visitors for the Maldivian tourism market, contributing to its economic resilience.
Leaders acknowledged the role of the bilateral air travel bubble, created during the pandemic, in expanding tourism links. The two leaders welcomed the ongoing work to operationalize the use of Rupay cards in the Maldives and agreed to consider further measures to boost bilateral travel and tourism and economic interconnections.
The two leaders also acknowledged the valuable contribution of Indian teachers, nurses, medical workers, doctors, workers and professionals in the Maldives. They welcomed the recent launch of the National Knowledge Network in the Maldives and urged officials to work to expand its reach.
The two leaders welcomed the commitment of business leaders from both countries during the visit, noting that fisheries, infrastructure, renewable energy, tourism, health and IT, among others, were key sectors to strengthen economic ties between the two countries through cross-border investments and partnerships.
Both leaders recognized India’s potential as a frontier market for Maldivian tuna products under SAFTA.
According to the MEA statement, the India-Maldives Development Partnership has grown rapidly in recent years and covers large infrastructure projects, community level grant projects and capacity building programs which are based solely on Maldives’ requirements, implemented through transparent processes and in a spirit of cooperation between the two governments.
The two leaders took part in the virtual “pouring of the first concrete” ceremony of the $500 million Greater Male Connectivity Project being built with grant and concessional loan support from India. The two leaders asked officials to ensure the timely completion of this largest historic infrastructure project in the Maldives – which will improve mobility between the islands of Male, Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi, reduce logistics costs and boost people-centred economic growth – which will be a symbol of the enduring friendship between the two countries.
Prime Minister Modi has announced the offer of a new $100 million Indian government line of credit to finance infrastructure projects in the Maldives. President Solih thanked the Indian government for the offer and expressed confidence that this additional fund would enable the implementation of several major infrastructure projects which have been in various stages of discussion.
The two leaders reviewed the progress being made in the development of the 4,000 social housing units being built in Greater Male’ using Exim Bank of India Buyer’s Credit financing. These housing units are in line with the Government of Maldives’ goal of providing affordable housing to its citizens.
The two leaders welcomed the approval of $119 million financing by the Exim Bank of India Buyer’s Credit for the construction of 2,000 additional social housing units in Greater Male and the exchange of a letter of intent to that effect between the Exim Bank of India and the Government of the Maldives. President Solih thanked the Indian government for its generous assistance for additional housing units.
The two leaders expressed their satisfaction with the progress made in other Indian-funded projects, including the Addu Roads project, the provision of water and sanitation facilities in 34 islands and the restoration of Hukuru Miskiy (mosque of Friday). The two leaders welcomed the approval of the revised Gulhifalhu Port Project DPR and urged officials to begin implementation at the earliest as it will provide a world-class port facility for Greater Male to replace the existing port and the relocation of facilities from the city of Male.
The two leaders also welcomed the final approval from the Indian side for the signing of the Hanimaadhoo Airport Development Project EPC contract and expressed their joy that the implementation will start shortly. The two leaders noted with satisfaction the finalization of the feasibility report for the Laamu cancer hospital construction project and its financial close thanks to the Indian government’s line of credit. The two leaders praised the positive contribution to the island communities of the 45 community development projects, implemented with the help of grants from India.
Prime Minister Modi and President Solih noted with satisfaction that capacity building and training have become a key pillar of the bilateral partnership over the past few years. Alongside the ITEC training programme, hundreds of Maldivians are undergoing special customized training in India, facilitated by institutional links between the civil services, customs services, parliaments, the judiciary, the media, health and government institutes. education and defense and security organizations.
The two leaders welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the local government authority of the Maldives and the National Institute for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj of India, which would build the capacity of local government institutions in the Maldives. (ANI)