India and its Southern neighbour Maldives on Saturday signed five agreements that would boost infrastructure in the island nation.
The pacts that were signed on Saturday during Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s visit are-Amendatory Agreement to repurpose an older EXIM Bank of India Line of Credit of USD 25 million for Road Devt; Letter of Intent between EXIM Bank and local authorities for financing a housing project of 2000 units in Hulhumale; and MoU on grant funding USD 0.5 million for a fish processing plant in Kendhikulhudhoo in northern Maldives.
Besides a MoU on capacity building and exchange of content and expertise between Prasar Bharati and Public State Media, Maldives and MoU on sustainable urban development between MoHUA and Ministry of national planning, housing and infrastructure, Maldives were also inked.
India also made a donation of additional 100,000 doses of vaccines to Maldives.
“Witnessed the exchange of agreements on a wide range of domains we are working on together- incl. fish processing, public broadcasting, sustainable urban development, road infrastructure & housing. Emblematic of our strong & multi-faceted development partnership,” Jaishankar tweeted on the occasion.
Jaishankar’s Maldivian counterpart Abdullah Sahid displayed strong bonds with India by speaking in chaste Hindi.
"A bird in flight, stays true on course, with not one but two wings in synchronised motion. Our two countries are just like those wings. We work in harmony, we work together, with the same interests, aiming to reach the same destination," Shahid said with Jaishankar by his side.There have been regular meetings and engagements taking place between India and Maldives, even during the time of Covid-19 pandemic. Building upon these, Jaishankar is visiting the island nation.
Earlier engagements / visits to Maldives in 2020 include: --
-Visit of Foreign Secretary to Maldives in November 2020.
-- Meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, through video conferencing, in August 2020 in which several key projects and initiatives were announced.
-- Telephone conversation between PM Modi and President Solih in April 2020. - ‘India First’ has been the underlying foreign policy approach of the Government of Maldives. President Solih, ever since he assumed office in November 2018, has taken concerted initiatives on this front.
This has been in congruence with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy - India’s rapid and comprehensive assistance to the Maldives since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced its credentials of being the first responder. Maldives was the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines from India when India gifted 100,000 doses in January 2021.
— This was preceded by a series of health and humanitarian assistance provided in 2020 that included donation of 5.5 tons of essential medicines, airlifting of 6.2 tons of medicines by the IAF from various India cities through Operation Sanjeevani, supply of 580 tons of food aid under Mission SAGAR by INS Kesari and deployment of Rapid Response Medical Team to assist in COVID-19 preventive methods.
- India also undertook a series of economic and financial initiatives at the peak of the pandemic to revive Maldivian economy and provide budgetary cushion to its dwindling revenues primarily driven by tourism. These are as follows: -- Extension of soft loan of $ 250 Mn for budgetary support of Maldives.
- Supporting the implementation of Greater Male Connectivity Project, the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives, connecting Male with three neighbouring islands by construction of a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7 km, through a financial package consisting of a grant of $ 100 million and a new Line of Credit of $ 400 million.
The Detailed Project Report for this project has been prepared and tendering process is on. -- Creation of an Air Travel Bubble to facilitate movement of people from both sides for employment, tourism, medical emergencies etc. Maldives was the first neighboring country with which an air bubble was operationalized.
This has boosted tourist inflow in Maldives and India became the largest tourists sending country for Maldives in 2020 with 62,905 Indians visiting. This trend has continued in 2021 with 30,000 Indians visiting Maldives till mid February out of 138,000 foreign tourists.
- Commencement of direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives that was announced by PM in June 2019 to enhance sea connectivity and provide predictability in supplies and reduce logistics cost for India Maldives trade. So far, 6 voyages have taken place.
Source: The economic Times