India on Monday said the Maldives should play a more prominent role in the United Nations and reiterated its support to its Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid's candidature for the presidency of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly next year. Addressing the Maldives' Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Male, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said in today's globalised and interconnected world, multilateral engagement is very important.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's address to the UNGA last year was appreciated by one and all, he said. India feels that the Maldives should play a more prominent role in the UN, he said.
"In this context, I am happy to reiterate the commitment made by our External Affairs Minister earlier during the Virtual Meeting with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid that India will support his candidature for the presidency of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly next year," the foreign secretary said. "With his vast diplomatic experience and leadership qualities, Foreign Minister Shahid has the best credentials to preside over the General Assembly in these tumultuous times. His Presidency will also provide greater visibility to the Maldives," Shringla said.
"We are happy that his term will coincide with our membership of the United Nations Security Council for 2021-22. We look forward to working closely with the Maldives in the United Nations," he said. India has always been supportive of the Maldives in various multilateral fora, he said.
"We are happy that the Maldives has re-joined the Commonwealth in February this year and can continue to benefit from this historic organisation," Shringla said. He said India has supported the Maldives in joining the Indian Ocean Regional Association where the Maldives can not only benefit but also bring a lot of value to this organisation.
"We also note the enhanced engagement of the Maldives with the United Nations and its specialised organisations," he said.Shringla said India and the Maldives have had to face the enormous uncertainties that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.
"In mitigating this impact on our people and economy, we were also happy to extend assistance to the Maldives in dealing with the crisis," he said. "India has striven to ensure that there are no disruptions in our support to the Maldives as was seen in the case of the continued supply of onions even in the wake of export restrictions imposed by India for others," he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Maldives in June last year said Neighbourhood First is our priority; and in the neighbourhood, the Maldives is the priority', he noted.
"PM Modi also said that India's cooperation will always be focussed on the welfare of the people and based on the requirements and priorities of Maldives. It is no coincidence therefore that the Maldives was the first and the largest recipient of India's COVID-19 assistance in our neighbourhood," Shringla said. "I have no hesitation in assuring you that this assistance will continue beyond COVID-19 and will manifest itself whenever the Maldives requires Indian assistance of any kind," he added.
In his remarks at the National Stadium, Male while handing over children's parks for 67 Islands in the Maldives under Cash Grant Projects, Shringla said the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruptions. "I am happy that even Covid could not stop or slow down India-Maldives cooperation. President Solih has himself publicly pointed out that India has been the largest supporter and assistance provider in dealing with the pandemic," Shringla said.
Last month India provided USD 250 million financial assistance, as a concessional loan, leaving it entirely to the Maldives to decide its usage according to its priorities, he said. "It is reassuring that when we emerge from the pandemic, we will emerge together with our partnership stronger than ever before. We will work together with you to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19," he said.
The Maldives has reported 11,986 COVID-19 cases so far with 40 deaths.