Male, March 18 (newsin.asia): The Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, reiterated his government’s “India-First Policy” in his meeting with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj here on March 17 and the latter reiterated her government’s “Neighborhood First” policy.
Shahid said that his government looks forward to working closely with the government of India on all issues. He also reiterated the policy of the government of Maldives to remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns.
The Maldivian side expressed its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldivian side also reiterated support for India’s candidature for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
Swaraj said that India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives, which is marked by “trust, transparency, mutual understanding, and sensitivity.” She said that in line with the government of India’s “Neighborhood First policy”, India stands ready to fully support the government of Maldives in its socio-economic development.
During the visit Swaraj called on the President of the Republic of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the Speaker of the Parliament Gasim Ibrahim.
During the visit, the following Agreements were signed:
Agreement on Exemption from Visa Requirement for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports;
Memorandum of Understanding regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects through Local Bodies;
Memorandum of Understanding on Collaboration in the Field of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Shahid noted the key role that India continues to play in the socio-economic development of the Maldives. He thanked the Government of India for its support towards the renovation of Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, which stands as an enduring symbol of friendship between the two countries.
On behalf of the Government and people of India, Swaraj dedicated the renovation of IGMH to the people of Maldives and also undertook a tour of IGMH during her visit. She announced the continued support for the further development of the health sector through the provision of equipment, and capacity building programmes. The Maldivian side appreciated the gifting of LED bulbs and LED street lights for Malé City.
While discussing cooperation in the field of youth and sports, the Maldivian side requested Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium. The Indian side agreed to positively consider the request.
Shahid thanked the Government of India for the provision of financial assistance in the form of budgetary support, currency swap, and concessional lines of credit. Swaraj announced the decision of the Government of India to renew the quota for essential commodities, as requested by the Government of Maldives, including river sand and stone aggregate, for a period of 3 years, starting from 1 April 2019.
Welcoming the increase in trade volume over the past few years, both Foreign Ministers agreed to improve connectivity as a means to promote the exchange of goods and services, culture, and people. The Ministers also agreed on the need to boost private sector involvment, and agreed to hold the Maldives-India Business Forum in 2019.
Recognizing that people-to-people contact is a key enabler of strong, bilateral relationship, the Foreign Ministers welcomed the entry-into-force, on 11 March 2019, of the Agreement on Visa Facilitation.
The Ministers also expressed their commitment to address the issues related to the welfare of their respective communities residing in both countries, including the speedy provision of consular services. The Ministers highlighted the importance of cultural cooperation in facilitating better understanding between the peoples of two countries, and agreed to work on strengthening cooperation in this regard.
Shahid expressed the Government’s appreciation for the continued support extended from India towards the development of human resources, including capacity building programmes, and provision of training and scholarship opportunities. He highlighted in particular, the 1000 additional slots over the next five years for training and capacity building, announced during the State Visit of President Solih to India.
The Indian side appreciated the decision of the Maldivian side to provide land in Hulhumalé for the Indian Embassy.
Both Foreign Ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region, and to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security. Swaraj thanked the Maldives for its steadfast support against terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations. Shahid expressed the commitment of the Maldives to support efforts to combat terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, and crimes such as piracy, organized crime, narcotic drugs and human trafficking.
The Foreign Ministers reiterated 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 UN Security Council.
Highlighting the importance of combating the impacts of climate change, especially detrimental to developing countries, including Small Island Developing States, the Foreign Ministers agreed on the need to strengthen the global response to climate change, through multilateral forums including the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. EAM appreciates the Maldives for its intention to submit the instrument of ratification for the Framework Agreement for Establishing the International Solar Alliance.
Swaraj thanked Shahid for the warm welcome and the gracious hospitality extended to her and members of the delegation during their stay in the Maldives.
50 Indian Soldiers Stationed in the Maldives
The Maldivian military on Saturday admitted that 50 Indian soldiers are stationed in the island nation with the two helicopters gifted by the Indian government.
Speaking during a press conference the Principal Director of Coastguard Lieutenant Mohammed Saleem said that the Indian soldiers are maintaining the two aircraft are on a rotation basis.
He said that after the soldiers have stayed here for their required term, they are replaced by new soldiers, without specifying the terms of service.
“Generally our figure is 50 soldiers. But we don’t always have an exact number here since sometimes people tend to come and go,, Saleem explained.
The country’s Chief of the Defense Force had stated before that there were around 30 technical staff maintaining an individual helicopter at any given time.
Saleem revealed Saturday that staff from the companies that manufactured the aircraft stay occasionally for tune-up operations.
He further stated that the Indian government has offered to train local pilots to operate the choppers.
Maldives Awaiting Indian Radars
Installation of the 10 radar systems gifted by the Indian government to protect the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will be completed within the end of this year, Maldives military said Saturday.DS BY OOREDOO
At a press conference held at the Coastguard building on Saturday, Major Ahmed Mujthaba stated that work on four of the radar systems has already been completed and that the remaining six will be installed before the end of the year.
After the radar systems have been connected with the coastguard stations the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) will begin using the systems, he added.
“Four out of ten stations have already been installed and God willing, we will be able to connect the systems with our stations by midyear”, Mujthaba explained.
Mujthaba said that since the Maldivian economic zone needs to be constantly monitored, the Electro-Optical Sensors in the new systems would enable the coastguard to do so from the command center.
He also said that these radar systems alone were insufficient to monitor the entire Maldivian Exclusive Economic Zone and that more equipment will be required to do so.
Speaking at the press conference, Coastguard Commander Brigadier General Ali Zuhair said the priority for the coastguard is to prevent piracy and other unlawful activities being carried out in the Indian Ocean.(The featured image at the top shows Sushma Swaraj calling on Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohammad Solih)