Cricket Stadium, Ferry Service from Kochi on PM Modi's Agenda as He Embarks on First Bilateral Visit to Maldives
The visit is significant as the island nation is the only country in the neighbourhood that Modi did not visit during his first term as the prime minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (Twitter/MEAIndia)
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to embark on a trip to Maldives on Saturday as part of his first bilateral visit post coming back to power for the second time. The visit is significant as the island nation is the only country in the neighbourhood that Modi did not visit during his first term as the prime minister.
His bilateral visit to the archipelago was cancelled in March 2015 due to the volatile political situation. Modi, however, had travelled to Male for the swearing-in of President Ibrahim Solih.
During his two-day visit, Modi will meet Solih, Vice-President Faisal Naseem and former President Mohammed Nasheed. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had said that both sides will aim to strengthen ties in various sectors. Modi and Solih, together, expected to inaugurate the coastal surveillance radar system, a key tool in strengthening maritime cooperation and security in the Indian Ocean.
Modi’s visit comes months after former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made her maiden visit to the island nation in March.
The key agreements signed during that visit include one on exemption of visa for official and diplomatic passport holders, a MoU regarding Indian grant assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects through Local Bodies, and an MoU on Collaboration in the Field of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The two countries have also decided to hold the Maldives-India business forum later this year to boost private sector investments.
Notably, India has now been granted land in the reclaimed new island of Hulhumale. Further, India has now agreed to renew the quota for essential commodities, including river and stone aggregate for a period of three years starting this April.
Solih’s government has also requested India to construct a cricket stadium which India has agreed to, the ministry of external affairs said in a statement. In April, Solih attended an IPL match in Bengaluru and expressed interest in developing a cricket team in the Maldives and sought India’s assistance in training the team.
Ahead of PM Modi's meeting, Gokhale was quoted by media reports as saying that a number of development projects are under consideration, including a ferry service from Kochi to Maldives.
India’s ties with the Maldives came under strain after President Yameen declared Emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.
India had criticised the Yameen government for the imposition of the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.
In July, India expressed concern over announcement of the presidential election without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner.
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