External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday said the India-Maldives partnership is a real force of stability and prosperity for the Indian Ocean Region. In his remarks at the inauguration of the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement, built with Indian grant assistance, in Addu City, in southern Maldives, Jaishankar said he had personally monitored the NCPLE project both as Minister and as Foreign Secretary, and termed the project a real symbol of the bilateral development partnership. Jaishankar, who arrived in Addu on Saturday evening, said that the Coastal Radar System, which comprises of 10 radar stations, would be formally handed over to the Defence Forces chief later in the day. The radar system will contribute to enhancing security for the Maldives and for the entire region, he said. “India and Maldives share a deep and abiding friendship. Today, our relationship is so full of promises and possibilities for our youth and for our future generations. It is also a partnership of great consequence and a real force of stability and prosperity for the Indian Ocean Region.” He expressed confidence that the NCPLE, one of the biggest grant projects of India, would be a flagship institution which would radiate the message of India-Maldives partnership as a force for stability and prosperity in the IOR. Earlier in his speech, he commended the government and people of Maldives for the resilience they have shown in the face of the pandemic. “Your vaccination program, your decision to establish an air bubble, our working together, I think these have all been examples of how actually challenges bring two neighbors much more closely than they would be otherwise.” “We are proud of what we have achieved in recent years, we are particularly proud of the way we have faced challenges together. And it has showed that your policy of ‘India First’ and our policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’, these are not just phrases but these are actually the very fulcrum of our relationship,” he added. Referring to his visit to the Addu War Memorial in the morning where he paid tribute to the Indian soldiers killed in the Second World War, he said their passing away is also a reminder of how history in many ways connects India and the Maldives. He said that under the leadership and guidance of Prime Minister Modi and President Solih, the India-Maldives partnership has achieved momentum and indeed dynamism on an unprecedented scale.
Jaishankar said the India-Maldives development partnership is transparent and driven by the needs and priorities of the people and government of Maldives. The USD 2.6 billion development partnership comprises grants, loans, budgetary support, capacity building and training assistance. “We are now entering a phase where projects are taking off, they are getting delivered, we are seeing them on the ground. And this expedited delivery has been very much a focus of my three visits to Maldives,” he added. Referring to the other projects, he said he would participate in the formal ground-breaking of the Addu Roads project on which work has begun, and also witness the signing of the USD 80 million contract for the Addu Reclamation and Shore-Protection project. He said the Gan Airport Redevelopment Project will enter the implementation phase very soon. Besides, he said that nine of the 20 ongoing High Impact Community Development Projects are in Addu City and he would inaugurate two of them later. On the iconic Greater Male Connectivity Project, which India is building, he said it has moved from the stage of concept to preliminary works in less than two years. “Geo-technical surveys are ongoing and we expect ground-breaking in the coming months.” Other India assisted projects include construction of 4,000 housing units in Hulhumale as well as drinking water and sanitation projects on 34 islands. “The Hanimaadhoo Airport Redevelopment project, expansion of facilities for MIFCO, Cricket Stadium Project in Hulhumale are all in tendering stage and we very much hope that new contracts will be signed and work will commence soon,” he added. The EAM said a USD 40 million Line of Credit which he had concluded during his last visit in February 2021 for the sports infrastructure has advanced and Detailed Project Reports are under preparation. He said that India was among the top sources of tourists for Maldives in 2020 and 2021, helped by the air bubble arrangement. “I am delighted that our bilateral trade has witnessed a number of facilitation measures including direct cargo vessels that serve our southern ports and Maldives and ensure that the supply of essential commodities is smooth,”