Excellency Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid,
Excellencies Ministers and Senior Officials
Minister, let me say first of all what a great delight and honour it is for me to visit Addu – this unique and southern-most of Maldivian atolls, and I am very privileged that this practice of receiving foreign visitors should begin here on the occasion of my visit and this would mean an ever lasting connection with Addu.
I return to the Maldives after more than a year and the time in between, actually despite the Covid, has witnessed fast paced progress in our relationship. Guided by the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, our cooperation has actually witnessed and withstood the arc and anguish of the pandemic together.
I congratulate President Solih, Foreign Minister, to you yourself, and the Government and people of the Maldives for dealing with adversity of Covid in a very successful and effective manner. You have vaccinated your population, and your economy has shown resilience and recovery. And I congratulate you for that achievement.
Our cooperation during the pandemic has displayed solidarity, solidarity in terms of the design, the speed, the scale of our response. And when I hear of your model of dealing with Covid, quite honestly, we share your satisfaction. Today’s Agreement on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 certificates is a step forward in the same direction and will certainly contribute to easier travel between us.
Let me also say a few words about our development partnership because I think that’s a central pillar of our relationship. It is a very transparent partnership, driven directly by Maldivian needs and priorities – today ranges upwards of USD 2.6 billion in terms of grants, concessional loans, budgetary support and capacity building and training assistance.
Minister, you and I had wide-ranging discussions on our bilateral partnership today. We took stock of ongoing projects and initiatives across a very wide range of sectors. We looked at socio-economic development, trade and investment, and, tourism.
With regard to Addu, India is supporting projects in a range of sectors - infrastructure, tourism, fish processing and health. We will be witnessing inauguration and launch of some of these projects tomorrow. Work has commenced on Addu Roads projects, as also on the 4000 housing units, the drinking water and sanitation.
You’ve also spoken of the iconic Greater Male Connectivity Project which holds the potential of actually transforming the transport landscape of the capital. It gives me great pleasure in recognising the progress we have made on this project and we have moved from the level of concept to preliminary works in less than two years, that too during the years of Covid. Geo-technical surveys are ongoing. I hope we can do a ground-breaking in the coming months.
Let me also note that the Hanimaadhoo Airport Redevelopment Project, the expansion of facilities of MIFCO, the cricket stadium, - that we spoke about, and the social housing projects have all seen momentum in implementation in the past year.
I am pleased to hear that the DPR of USD 40 million Sports Line of Credit announced when I was here in February last year is near completion. Under this LOC, the National Stadium will be renovated and sports infrastructure would be built across Maldives.
Foreign Minister, you and I have acknowledged the strides made in the fields of capacity building and training. I am, of course, delighted to join you in the inauguration of the National Knowledge Network (NKN). And, with the signing of the Peering Agreement today, over 1500 Indian institutes and a host of universities and centres of learning from Singapore, Europe and the United Stated are now connected to the Maldives. The NKN is a real expression of the best of our regional cooperation in the digital and education arenas.
We are pleased with the steady growth of our tourism and I think we are among the top sources of tourists in 2020 and 2021. And I assure you we’ll make all the efforts and give all the encouragement to keep that position in the coming year. We are also glad that at a time of global uncertainty and volatility, we have been able to consistently keep up supplies of essential commodities to Maldives.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend both the governments and the people of Maldives for their efforts and ambition in the area of climate change. India stands ready to share its capabilities with Maldives in this regards. We are already engaged in the development of water and sanitation facilities on 34 islands through LoC financing. Apart from extending basic civic amenities to island communities, the project that is one of the largest climate adaptation measures ongoing in the Maldives at a cost of more than USD 100 million, I think is very noteworthy. We exchanged views on how we take climate change and renewable energy development forward.
We have also had a discussion on regional security and maritime safety issues, I think that the threat of transnational crimes and terrorism and drug trafficking is indeed very serious. In this context, I’m very pleased to see that our capacity building and cooperation and training have expanded in this. I think it is for both of us, strengthens our defence and security.
The National College of Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE), that will be inaugurated tomorrow, I think deserves some special words. It is our largest grant funded project in Maldives, and prior to the Greater Male Connectivity Project. It will assist the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to train its officers and enhance its crime-fighting capacities for the years to come. We are also signing an MoU for capacity building between the Maldives Police and our National Police Academy. Tomorrow, we will also be handing over formally, the Coastal Radar System which is already operational and will help in enhancing maritime security.
You have today brought to my attention today the issue of tuna exports, and I had shared with you that I will bring o the attention of my Trade Minister It is not a matter which had previously gotten our collective attention. But I assure you, when I go back, I will certainly look at it very carefully.
Let me in conclusion emphasise that our time-tested relationship is today poised for a quantum jump. We are touching the lives of our people like we have done never before. We are partners in development, we are promoting peace and security, and our relationship, in many ways, serves as a model for the region.
It is a partnership that delivers for its stakeholders – the citizens of our countries – both in good times and in bad times. This is a partnership that tackles common challenges of regional development, which addresses disruptions and disasters. It is a partnership that is a force for stability in the region. And, it is our shared responsibility to nurture, to strengthen it and to take it forward. And I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that we remain very strongly committed to further progress of this relationship and coming to Addu has been a particularly effective way of messaging that.
Once again, thank you very much.