Maldives signed four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU)s with the Indian government, on Monday, during Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s first official visit to the island nation, on the invitation of Maldivian Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed.
The MoUs include the free aid of USD 100 million extended by India for the Greater Male’ Connectivity Project, considered the largest development project carried out in Maldives till date, featuring a 6.7 kilometer long bridge with causeways connecting capital Male’, Villimale’, Thilafushi and Gulhi Falhu International Port.
In addition, the neighbouring countries also signed an MoU on cooperation in sports and youth affairs, aimed to facilitate training and experience opportunities for athletes and coaches.
The two remaining MoUs were signed on two projects planned under the High Impact Community Development Scheme, including the establishment of an agricultural research centre in Haa Dhaalu Atoll’s Hanimaadhoo and developing a drug detoxification centre in Addu City’s Hulhudhoo.
The MoUs grant MVR 1.7 million for Hanimaadhoo’s agricultural centre project and MVR 7.9 million for Addu’s detox centre project.
The Indian Foreign Secretary also declared that Maldives will be a priority for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by India, in a courtesy call paid to Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid.
During the courtesy call held at the Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed the long standing bilateral ties between Maldives and India, as well as the recovery efforts regarding the ongoing global pandemic.
Minister Shahid expressed his gratitude for India’s swift assistance to the challenges faced by Maldives in the fight against COVID-19.
During the visit, Shringla will oversee the progress of the ongoing development projects in Maldives, commenced with Indian aid.
The Indian Foreign Secretary also met with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and discussed close cooperation and bilateral ties between Maldives and India and elaborated on the progress made on the implementation of eight large infrastructure projects in the Maldives under Indian Lines of Credit, of which five projects are expected to commence in the next two months.
In addition to President Solih, Shringla also met with various other heads of government institutions including Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed, Minister of Defence Mariya Ahmed Didi and Minister of Tourism Dr Abdulla Mausoom.
During his sit down with Speaker Nasheed, Shringla appraised him on capacity building support being provided by the Parliament of India to the People’s Majlis and extended an invitation to the Parliament Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, which Nasheed accepted.
In his call on Defence Minister Mariya, the Foreign Secretary briefed her on the excellent state of bilateral defence cooperation including joint EEZ surveillance, joint military exercises and HADR, and both sides highlighted their shared interests in the security of the Indo-Pacific region.
Shringla complimented Tourism Minister Mausoom for the successful efforts resulting in steady increase in tourist arrivals to Maldives, and expressed his satisfaction at the functioning of visa free agreement signed in March 2019 and the bilateral Air Travel Bubble established in August 2020, which now connects 5 cities in India with Male’ through 13 weekly flights.
In his meeting with his counterpart Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, the duo discussed respective national approaches to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19- pandemic. Ghafoor conveyed Maldives’ appreciation for India’s substantial assistance in battling the challenges posed by COVID-19.