India on Monday announced financial assistance of USD 1.4 billion to the Maldives as the island nation's President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih undertook his maiden visit here, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would enhance "trust and friend" between the two nations.
"It is a matter of great pride and honour for us that you have selected India as your first visit to any foreign country. Your visit would further help in strengthening the deep bond of trust and friendship that India shares with the Maldives," Prime Minister Modi said in a statement.
Looking forward to securing the societal and economic development of Maldives, India also promised to provide budget support, and currency swap. The two countries also exchanged the documents of agreement in the presence of Prime Minister and Maldives President Solih for bilateral co-operation in the field of agri-business, culture, and visa arrangements.
Noting the faith in democracy and development by the people of the two countries, Prime Minister Modi said that the bilateral visit of President Solih to India would mark the beginning of a new chapter in the deep bond shared between India and Maldives.
"Dear Excellency, I applaud the vision of people-centric development of your government. Being a close friend and neighbour, I wish for their success of Maldives," the Prime Minister said.
Making his first visit to a foreign country after elected as President on November 17, the Maldivian President along with First Lady Fazna Ahmed met Prime Minister Modi at Hyderabad House in the afternoon. President Solih's pro-India feelers come as a big relief to New Delhi, as the island nation's earlier regime was closer to China.
The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Ibrahim Solih took to Twitter saying, "PM @narendramodi warmly received President @ibusolih ahead of delegation level talks. During his visit to the Maldives for the President's inauguration in November, PM had extended an invitation to President Solih to make a State Visit to India."
New Delhi and Male agreed to work together to create institutional linkages and to establish a framework of cooperation in the following areas including health cooperation issues particularly cancer treatment, mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, investment promotion, human resource development, tourism.
The two leaders reiterated their strong commitment to further strengthening and reinvigorating the traditionally strong and friendly relations between India and the Maldives, nurtured by geographical contiguity, ethnic, historical, socio-economic and cultural ties between the peoples of the two countries. They also reiterated an abiding faith in, and commitment to democracy, development and peaceful co-existence.
Modi also congratulated the people of Maldives for their successful and peaceful transition to democracy. He applauded the President of Maldives on his vision for inclusive, decentralised, people-centric governance, and development that is sustainable.
Recalling his government's policy of 'Neighbourhood-First,' Prime Minister Modi reiterated India's assurance of all possible support to Maldives in realising its aspirations for socio-economic development, and strengthening of democratic and independent institutions.
In this regard, the Prime Minister announced provision of financial assistance up to US$ 1.4 billion in the form of budgetary support, currency swap and concessional lines of credit to fulfill the socio-economic development programmes of the Maldives.
President Solih reaffirmed his government's "India-First Policy" and commitment to working together closely with New Delhi. He appreciated the generous assistance provided by the Government of India to the Maldives and identified various areas for developmental cooperation, including private sector involvement in development of housing and infrastructure, water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands, healthcare, education, and tourism.
Both leaders emphasised the need to improve connectivity between the two countries through the establishment of enabling infrastructure that would promote the exchange of goods and services, information, ideas, culture, and people.
The Prime Minister informed the decision by the Government of India to provide 1,000 additional slots over next five years for training and capacity building in diverse fields including judicial, policing and law-enforcement, audit and financial management, local governance, community development, IT, e-governance, sports, media, youth and women empowerment, leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, art and culture.
Recognising the importance of facilitating people-to-people exchanges and travel, the leaders welcomed the new agreement on visa facilitation signed on Monday. The Prime Minister noted that the new agreement will address the common concerns and ensure that people-to-people contacts are enhanced. The Maldives is one of the very few countries with which India has a visa-free arrangement.
India also promised a maritime cooperation to the Maldives, and also welcomed Male's entry into the Commonwealth and praised the growth of Maldives from one among the least developed countries (LDC) to a middle-income group of countries.
Prime Minister Modi welcomed Maldives' decision to re-join the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister also welcomed the Maldives as the newest member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Maldivian President Solih expressed his gratitude for the warm hospitability extended to him and his delegation by India. "This beautiful nation remains close to the heart of so many Maldivians," he said.
President Solih in his speech said that the agreements signed would pave the way for greater cooperation between the two Asian countries. He added that an important aspect of their bilateral discussion was on mutual aspirations and need for regional stability, and strengthening the maritime security.
Both leaders agreed on the importance of combating the impact of climate change, especially detrimental to developing countries, and small island developing states, and the need to work towards strengthening the global response to climate change, through the UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement.
The two leaders underscored the need for strengthening and reform of multilateral financial institutions and enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making.
President Solih reiterated his country's support for India's candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldives also reiterated support for India's candidature for a non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
On behalf of the Maldivian people, President Solih also invited both President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi to officially pay a visit to the Maldives next year.
Earlier, the Maldivian President met President Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. He also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rajghat in New Delhi.
He also met with Vice President Naidu and is slated to meet President Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhawan later today. On December 18, Solih will undertake a visit to Agra and then emplane for the Maldives.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)