By Priti | PUBLISHED: 18, Mar 2019, 20:34 pm IST | UPDATED: 18, Mar 2019, 20:52 pm IST
New Delhi: It was the first state visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after President Ibrahim Solih's government took over on December 17, 2018. The meeting was reflective of the renewed dynamism in the traditionally close relationship, as the joint statement issued by MEA stated.
FM Shahid reiterated his Government’s "India-First Policy” and said that his Government looks forward to working closely with the Government of India on all issues. He also reiterated that the Government of Maldives would remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns.
EAM Sushma Swaraj reiterated that India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with Maldives, which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding, and sensitivity. She said that in line with Government of India’s neighbourhood First policy, India stands ready to fully support the Government of Maldives in its socio-economic development.
During the visit, the following Agreements were signed;
a. Agreement on Exemption from Visa Requirement for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports;
b. Memorandum of Understanding regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects through Local Bodies;
c. Memorandum of Understanding on Collaboration in the Field of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
FM 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, EAM 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 provision of equipment, and capacity building programmes. India gifted 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.
FM 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. EAM 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 involvement, and agreed to hold the Maldives-India Business Forum in 2019.
Recognising 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.
FM 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. EAM thanked the Maldives for its steadfast support against terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations. FM 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. 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.
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.
EAM Sushma Swaraj was accompanied by a delegation of senior officers from the Government of India.
by : Priti Prakash
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