New Delhi [India], February 21 (ANI): India has signed a USD 50 million line of credit (LoC) agreement with the Maldives to facilitate maritime capability building of the island nations.
According to a joint India-Maldives joint statement, the agreement was signed between the Government of Maldives and EXIM Bank India.
The agreement was signed during the visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to the Maldives.
"Welcome the signing of USD 50 million Defence LoC agreement with the Maldives. Will facilitate capability building in the maritime domain," Jaishankar tweeted.
Jaishankar, accompanied by a delegation of senior officials from India, paid an official visit to the Maldives on 20-21 February 2021 at the invitation of Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
During the visit, Jaishankar called on Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
He also called on the Speaker of the Peoples Majlis, Mohamed Nasheed and held meetings with Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Finance, Economic Development, Sports, and National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure.
During the visit, New Delhi signed an agreement with Male to "develop, support and maintain" a Maldivian National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour at Sifvaru (Uthuru Thilafalhu).
"This Agreement was signed pursuant to the request Government of Maldives made in April 2013 for support and cooperation of the Government of India to assist the Government of Maldives for enhancing the capability of the Defence Forces of the Maldives in exercising jurisdiction and undertaking maritime surveillance of its EEZ and islands; and subsequent requests made in October 2015 and March 2016," the statement read.
Jaishankar met his Maldivian counterpart Shahid on February 20, 2021 in a "warm and friendly atmosphere, reflective of the renewed dynamism over the past two years in the traditionally close relationship".
During the meeting, Shahid reiterated the deepest appreciation to the Indian government and the people for gifting an additional 100,000 doses of COVISHIELD vaccine to the people of Maldives, in addition to the 100,000 doses gifted to the Maldives on January 20 2021, according to the joint statement.
Underscoring the importance of defence and security cooperation, the ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region.
They further agreed to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security, including on combatting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including cross border terrorism and maintaining peace in the region to ensure freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean
The ministers affirmed their commitment to further deepening and strengthening the relationship, and exploring new areas of cooperation. They discussed the status of implementation on the various infrastructure development projects financed through the Government of India Lines of Credit, which are of the highest priority to the Government of Maldives.
"The Contract for construction of roads and drainage systems in Addu City was awarded during the visit. This is the first of the eight major infrastructure projects being implemented jointly by the Maldives and India to be awarded. Within six months of the announcement of India's financial support to the Greater Male Connectivity - Male to Thilafushi Link Project (GMCP), the tender was also published this week by the Ministry of Finance," the statement read.
"The Ministers also expressed satisfaction that the Construction of Water and Sanitation infrastructure on 34 islands will also be awarded this month, and that the Detailed Project Report for the Hanimaadhoo Airport expansion project has been finalised. Several of the major projects will soon be completing the tendering stage, and both Ministers agreed on the importance of close coordination for accelerating progress," it added.
An amendatory agreement for the USD 40 million Line of Credit signed in 2011, was also signed during the visit. Under this amendatory agreement, the unutilized amount of USD 25.64 million under this Line of Credit, will be directed towards roads development projects in the Maldives.
A Letter of Intent between Fahi Dhiriulhun Corporation and EXIM Bank was also signed during this visit towards extending a credit facility under EXIM Bank's Buyer's Credit scheme to support the design and construction of 2000 social housing units in Hulhumale.
And in this context, both Ministers noted with happiness, the increasing interest of Indian investors in the Maldives.
Other MoUs signed during the visit include cooperation between Public Service Media and Prasar Bharati, and between the Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Maldives, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, India on Sustainable Urban Development. Both Ministers agreed that these MoUs would serve to further strengthen the already strong bilateral cooperation, by expanding into new fields of cooperation.
"Foreign Minister Shahid noted the key role that India continues to play in the socio-economic development of the Maldives. He noted that the High Impact Community Development Projects and Small Grants Projects are very beneficial for the local communities," the joint statement read.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a Geydhoshu Mas Plant in Noonu Atoll Kendhikulhudhoo was also signed. This is the twelfth project to be financed under the High Impact Community Development Projects scheme.
Foreign Minister Shahid requested for the second tranche of financing under the scheme.
Moreover, Jaishankar and Shahid jointly inaugurated two projects financed with Indian grant assistance in Hulhumale - the development of pathways, lighting and seating, as well as soft scaping of two sectors of the Hulhumale Central Park, and the renovation of the Hulhumale Westside Jetty.
"The Ministers also discussed the importance of an effective multilateral system as a key factor in tackling global challenges and agreed on the need to pursue reform of the main UN bodies, including the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Maldives reiterated its support for India's candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. India reiterated its support for the Maldives candidature for the Presidency of the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly," the statement read.
Jaishankar also held a joint meeting with the Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam and Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, to discuss in detail, the various infrastructure projects and economic activities being undertaken in cooperation with India.
This is the second visit of Jaishankar to the Maldives, in his capacity as the External Affairs Minister. He last visited the Maldives to take part in the Indian Ocean Conference, held in September 2019.
Guided by mutual respect and trust, the Maldives-India partnership has grown even stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the joint statement. "The visit highlights the strong and shared commitment of both sides to strengthen the bilateral partnership that is anchored in common civilisational roots, cultural affinities, and the shared values of democracy and the rule of law," the statement read. (ANI)