India announces $1.4 bn as financial aid to Maldives; leaders commit to be ‘mindful’ of concerns for stability in region

New Delhi: With Maldives reeling under mounting Chinese debt, India on Monday announced a $1.4 billion financial assistance to the island nation and inked four pacts with it after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih held "successful" talks with an aim to reset ties.

The two countries also agreed to remain mindful of each other's concerns and aspirations for the stability of the Indian Ocean region and not allow their respective territories to be used for any activity inimical to their interests.

In his media statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Solih's victory in the presidential election in Maldives and assured him that India will always stand behind the island nation in its quest for peace and development.

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Narendra Modi greets Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on this three-day visit to India. Reuters

"India will always stand by you in your government's ambitious efforts to change the lives of the Maldivian people. For the social and economic development of Maldives, India will extend budget support, currency swap and lines of credit worth $1.4 billion," Modi said.

He said there are "infinite possibilities" in expanding ties between the two neighbours.

Solih's visit here within a month after taking charge of the high office is seen as an effort by his government to repair ties with India which came under severe strain during the leadership of Abdulla Yameen, who was known to be close to China.

"The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean region through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information and capacity building," said an Indian-Maldives joint statement.

The resolve by the two sides to deepen maritime ties in the Indian Ocean assumes significance as China has been ramping up its military presence in the region.

The statement said the two leaders also recognised that the security interests of both the countries were interlinked and reiterated their assurance of being mindful of each other's concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region

The four agreements signed between the two countries will provide for easy facilitation of visas and cooperation in areas of cultural, agri-business and information technology.

In the talks, Solih reaffirmed his government's 'India-First Policy', and commitment to working together closely with India.

The Maldivian president also reiterated his country's support for India's candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. Maldives also reiterated support for India's candidature for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.

The two leaders also emphasised on their unwavering commitment and support to increased cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations both within the region and elsewhere.

"Both sides agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation on issues of common concern, including piracy, terrorism, organised crime, drugs and human trafficking," said the joint statement.

It said Modi and Solih also emphasized 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.

Highlighting the need for expansion of trade ties, Modi said there were increasing opportunities for Indian companies in the island nation and that a transparent, accountable and rules based governance system are giving a positive signal to Indian businessmen.

According to the statement, both sides agreed to work together to create institutional linkages and to establish a framework of cooperation in areas of health, mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, investment promotion and tourism.

In his statement, Modi also complimented Maldives' decision to re-join the Commonwealth and also welcomed it to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) family.

Solih arrived on Sunday on a three-day state visit, his first foreign trip after assuming office in the island nation a month ago. Modi had attended Solih's swearing-in ceremony on 17 November.

Earlier, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called on Solih and discussed bilateral and regional issues of mutual interests.

Relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on 5 February this year.

India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted for 45 days.

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2018 08:11:31 IST