External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Sunday that India and the Maldives share a deep and abiding friendship and their partnership is of great consequence and a “real force of stability” and prosperity for the Indian Ocean region.
Jaishankar made the remarks while inaugurating the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) in the Maldives’ Addu city – one of India’s largest grant funded projects in the island nation — in the presence of Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
He termed the project “a real symbol of our development partnership” and congratulated the Maldives Police service on their new training centre, saying it will serve to strengthen the traditions of exchanges and training between the Police forces of Maldives and India.
“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 said.
“I am confident that NCPLE will be one such flagship institution which would radiate this message. I congratulate President Solih, the Government and People of Maldives, and in particular, the officers of the Maldives Police Services on its inauguration,” the minister said.
On the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed between the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA) and the Maldives Police Force to support the up-gradation of police infrastructure across the archipelago.
The NCPLE is an apex grant project for the Government of India. “We hope that the NCPLE will soon grow into an iconic institution that churns out the best brains and bodies to face the challenges that confront any modern police force,” Jaishankar said, adding that India has increased the number of training slots for the Maldives at its police academy to 8.
“We hope that the fraternal bonds developed over many years between our two institutions will empower NCPLE to become a regional centre of excellence in law enforcement in the coming years,” he said.
The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean region and the bilateral defence and security ties have been on an upward trajectory in the last few years.
Noting that defence cooperation is another key pillar of India-Maldives partnership, Jaishankar said that he would be formally handing over to the Chief of Defence Forces, the Coastal Radar System, which comprises ten radar stations.
This system will contribute to enhancing security for the Maldives and for the entire region.
Jaishankar said that both India and the Maldives have come through a very difficult period where they were challenged by thepandemic.
He commended President Solih and the government and people of the Maldives for the resilience they have shown in the face of this adversity.
“Your vaccination programme, your decision to establish an air bubble, our working together, I think these have all been examples of how actually challenges bring two neighbours much more closely than they would be otherwise,” he said.
“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 shown 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,” Jaishankar said.
He said that in recent times, under the leadership and guidance of Prime Ministerand President Solih, the India-Maldives partnership has achieved momentum and indeed dynamism on an unprecedented scale.
“Today, our partnership envelopes cooperation in almost every facet of our bilateral relationship. The focus of our engagements, of course, always remains the well-being of our peoples. Our development partnership — which is transparent, which is driven by the needs and priorities of the People and Government of Maldives — ranges upwards of USD 2.6 billion in terms of grants, loans, budgetary support, capacity building and training assistance,” he said.
He said that the two countries are now entering a phase where projects are taking off, they are getting delivered, and they are seeing them on the ground.
“Nine of our 20 ongoing High Impact Community Development Projects are in fact in Addu City… We have made swift progress in the iconic Greater Male Connectivity Project as well which has now 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,” Jaishankar said.
He said that construction activity has also begun on 4,000 housing units in Hulhumale as well as drinking water and sanitation projects on 34 islands. The Hanimaadhoo Airport Redevelopment project, the expansion of facilities for MIFCO, and the Cricket Stadium Project in Hulhumale are all in the tendering stage, he added.
“The USD 40 million Line of Credit which we had concluded during my last visit in February 2021 for the sports infrastructure has advanced and Detailed Project Reports are under preparation. Our people-to-people ties have become even more vibrant. India was among the top sources of tourists for Maldives in 2020 and 2021, helped by the air bubble arrangement. We would certainly strive to keep that place in the coming years,” Jaishankar said.
“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,” said Jaishankar, who arrived here on Saturday.
The project for creation of police infrastructure facilities across the islands of Maldives with over USD 40 million financing from EXIM Bank of India has received the necessary approvals, he said, adding that under this project, 61 facilities including island and atoll-level police stations, divisional headquarters, detention centres and barracks will see construction begin soon.