Maldivian President Solih begins India visit, meets EAM Jaishankar

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih began a four-day visit to India on Monday to inject a new momentum to the close and expanding strategic partnership between the two countries.

After a meeting with Solih, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the Maldives’ ‘India First’ policy are “complementary” and they take the special partnership forward.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Solih will hold wide-ranging talks on Tuesday following which the two sides are expected to ink a number of agreements.

Solih’s visit to India from August 1 to 4 comes amid his widening political rift with Mohammed Nasheed, former President of the island nation and the current parliament speaker. Both Solih and Nasheed are senior leaders of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security have been on an upward trajectory in the past few years.

Earlier, the Maldivian president, accompanied by a high-level delegation, was welcomed at the Delhi airport by Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan.

Solih is also scheduled to meet President Droupadi Murmu.

“A warm welcome to a close friend and maritime neighbour! President @ibusolih of Maldives arrives in New Delhi for an official visit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

“An opportunity to nurture the unwavering friendship between our two countries and lend further momentum to the multi-faceted partnership,” he added.

Besides official engagements in New Delhi, President Solih will also visit Mumbai and participate in business events.

The ties between India and the Maldives have been on an upswing since Solih took charge of the top office in November, 2018. Prime Minister Modi attended the inauguration ceremony of President Solih.

In December, 2018, Solih visited India, which was his first overseas tour after becoming the President.

Modi visited Maldives in June, 2019 and it was his first overseas visit in his second term as the prime minister.

Last week, chief of Maldivian defence forces Maj Gen Abdulla Shamaal visited India.

In March, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, during a visit to Male, handed over a coastal radar system to the country. India and Maldives share common perspectives on maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean and have been working together to expand defence cooperation.

Development cooperation has been a key pillar of the India-Maldives relationship with New Delhi providing Lines of Credit of over USD 1.2 billion for infrastructure and grants for community development projects to the island nation.

In August last year, the island nation sealed a contract for the implementation of an India-funded connectivity project, billed as the largest infrastructure initiative being rolled out in the island nation.

Under the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect capital city Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.

Funded under a grant of USD 100 million and a Line of Credit of USD 400 million from India, it will be reportedly the largest infrastructure project in the Maldives. PTI MPB KVK

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