New Delhi: The President of the Republic of Maldives, His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is on an Official Visit to India at the invitation of the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Shri Narendra Modi.
This is President Solih’s third visit to India since assuming office on 17 November 2018. President Solih is accompanied by a high-level official delegation comprising His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Finance, His Excellency Mr. Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of Economic Development, Her Excellency Mr. Aishath Mohamed Didi, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, and a business delegation.
During the visit, President Solih had restricted and delegation level talks with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi. Prime Minister Modi also hosted an official lunch for President Solih and the accompanying delegation.
President Solih also met with President of the Republic of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, during the visit and congratulated President Murmu on assuming office as India’s 15th President. Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar called on President Solih. During the Mumbai leg of the visit, Governor of Maharashtra, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari will call on President Solih.
The India-Maldives bilateral partnership is underpinned by geographical proximity, historical, cultural ties and shared values. Prime Minister Modi underlined that the Maldives occupies a special place in the hearts of Indians and in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy. President Solih reaffirmed his government’s “India-First Policy”. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the rapid expansion of the bilateral partnership in recent years, which has benefited citizens of both countries. The leaders reiterated their commitment to further strengthen and deepen this mutually beneficial comprehensive partnership.
President Solih thanked Prime Minister Modi and the Government of India for standing by the Government and the people of the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic. The medical and financial assistance from India helped the Maldives overcome the health and economic fallouts of the pandemic. India was the first partner to gift Covid-19 vaccines to Maldives. Prime Minister Modi congratulated President Solih and the people of the Maldives for their resilience, the successful vaccination drive and the solid economic rebound post-pandemic.
Prime Minister Modi and President Solih agreed to further deepen institutional linkages for cooperation in the areas of defence and security, investment promotion, human resource development, infrastructure development including climate and energy.
Economic Cooperation and People-to-People Ties
Both leaders welcomed the growth in people-to-people ties through implementation of visa-free travel, better air connectivity, exchange programmes, and growing cultural and economic linkages. India has emerged as the top source for the Maldivian tourism market, contributing to economic resilience. The leaders acknowledged the role of the bilateral air travel bubble, created during the pandemic, in the expansion of tourism ties. The two leaders welcomed the ongoing work to operationalize the usage of Rupay Cards in Maldives and agreed to consider further measures to boost bilateral travel and tourism and economic inter-linkages. Both leaders also acknowledged the valuable contribution of Indian teachers, nurses, medical workers, doctors, workers, and professionals in the Maldives. They welcomed the recent launch of National Knowledge Network in Maldives and directed the officials to work towards expanding its reach within the country.
The two leaders welcomed the engagement among business leaders from both countries during the visit, noting that fisheries, infrastructure, renewable energy, tourism, health, and IT among others were key sectors for greater economic linkages between the two countries through cross-border investments and partnerships. Both leaders acknowledged India’s potential as a frontier market for Maldivian tuna products under the SAFTA. Overall, both leaders expressed satisfaction at the growth in bilateral trade since 2019. Prime Minister Modi and President Solih noted the operations of the direct cargo vessel service between India and Maldives since September 2020 and desired that the service become an enabler of increased bilateral trade.
Prime Minister Modi and President Solih reviewed the remarkable progress achieved in the development partnership domain despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other global economic challenges. India-Maldives development partnership has witnessed rapid growth in recent years and covers large infrastructure projects, community-level grant projects and capacity building programmes which are based purely on requirements of the Maldives, implemented through transparent processes and in a spirit of cooperation between the two Governments.
Both leaders participated in the virtual “pouring of the first concrete” ceremony of the USD 500 mn Greater Male’ Connectivity Project being built under grant and concessional loan support from India. The two leaders directed the officials to ensure timely completion of this largest landmark infrastructure project in Maldives – that will enhance mobility between Male’, Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi islands, cut down logistics cost and drive people-centric economic growth- which will be a symbol of enduring friendship between the two countries.
Prime Minister Modi announced offer of a new Government of India Line of Credit of USD 100 mn to finance infrastructure projects in Maldives. President Solih thanked Government of India for this offer and expressed confidence that this additional fund would enable implementation of several large infrastructure projects that have been under various stages of discussion.
Both leaders reviewed the progress achieved in the development of the 4,000 social housing units being built in Greater Male under Buyer’s Credit financing of Exim Bank of India. These housing units are in line with the Government of Maldives’ focus of providing affordable housing for its citizens.
The two leaders welcomed the approval of Exim Bank of India Buyer’s Credit funding of USD 119 mn for construction of another 2000 social housing units in Greater Male and exchange of a Letter of Intent to this effect between Exim Bank of India and the Government of Maldives. President Solih expressed appreciation to the Government of India for the generous assistance for additional housing units.
President Solih thanked Prime Minister Modi for the warmth, cordiality and gracious hospitality extended to him and members of his delegation during their visit.
President Solih reiterated his invitation to the President of India to make a State Visit to the Maldives. President Solih also invited the Prime Minister of India to undertake a visit to the Maldives.