Commencing his two-day visit, Foreign Secretary called on President Solih and briefed him on the satisfactory status of implementation of decisions taken during the high-level interactions held between PM Modi and President Solih in December 2018 and June 2019. President Solih expressed his deep appreciation for the support received from India in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the USD 250 million financial assistance provided in September 2020 as budget support. Foreign Secretary Shringla elaborated on the progress made on the implementation of 8 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.
During his meeting with Speaker Nasheed, Foreign Secretaryacknowledged 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. FS extended an invitation to the Maljis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy which the Speaker accepted.
Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid witnessed signing of the Agreement for extending USD 100 million grant to the Maldives to part-finance the Greater Male’ Connectivity Project. MoUs on setting up of a Drug-Detox Centre (MVR 7,980,536.69 grant) in Addu City and upgrading the Agricultural Research Centre in Hanimaadhoo (MVR 1, 711,434.60 grant) were also concluded. Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s decision to support the candidature of Foreign Minister Shahid for the post of President of the 76th United Nations General Assembly Session for the year 2021-22.
In his call on Defence Minister Uza. Mariya Ahmed Didi, Foreign Secretary briefed her on the excellent 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.
Foreign Secretary complimented Minister for Tourism Dr. Abdullah Mausoom for successful efforts resulting in steady increase in tourist arrivals to the Maldives which had placed the recovery of the tourism industry on a strong footing. FS also 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. Tourist arrivals from India have shown a steep upward trend in October.
Foreign Secretary reviewed the state of bilateral relations along with his counterpart Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor. They discussed respective national approaches to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19- pandemic. Mr. Ghafoor conveyed his Government’s appreciation for India’s substantial assistance to 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, Foreign Secretary participated in an event to handover 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 in 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 INR 90 crores (US$ 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.