Male, Nov 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced a USD 100 million Standby Credit Facility to Maldives and a number of other key initiatives, including building the capacity of Maldivian security forces, boosting India's ties with this strategic island nation.
The crucial decisions, taken during talks between Singh and Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed here, assume significance as these reflect India's growing outreach towards the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean amidst attempts by China to make inroads rapidly in the region.
Recognising the common threat from terrorism and piracy, the two sides decided to undertake coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange information and develop an effective legal framework against these.
Singh, who was here primarily for the 17th SAARC Summit, was accorded a rare honour when he addressed the ‘People's Majlis' (Maldivian Parliament), becoming the first foreign head of government or State to do so in its history of 78 years.
The two sides signed six agreements, including a historic framework accord on development cooperation and a pact under which India will extend a Standby Credit Facility of USD 100 million to help stabilise Maldivian fiscal position.
The new Standby Credit Agreement would significantly enhance infrastructure and capacities in Maldives. The Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development is a blue print for cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism, transportation, information technology, new and renewable energy, communications and enhancing connectivity by air and sea.
Singh, who is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Maldives in eight years, noted that terrorism, extremism and piracy were the common threats to the two countries. Among the pacts signed was an MoU on Combating International Terrorism, Trans-National Crime, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Enhancing Bilateral Cooperation in Capacity Building, Disaster Management and Coastal Security.
An agreement on the transfer of the sentenced persons was also signed between India and Maldives to facilitate the social rehabilitation of sentenced persons in their own countries. It provides nationals of either country, who have been convicted and sentenced, the opportunity to serve their sentences within their own society.
Singh said India will help build capacity within Maldives by supporting the construction of a National Police Academy. “Our two countries have agreed upon a multi-pronged approach to deal with these problems,” he told the Maldivian lawmakers.
A Joint Statement issued after the talks said, “the two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region through coordinated and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, capacity building and the development of an effective legal framework against piracy.”
After the agreement-signing ceremony, Singh told a joint press conference that the two leaders discussed all issues, including the future cooperation in the bilateral partnership as also the cooperation which was already on a high growth trajectory.
On his part, President Nasheed thanked Singh for the framework agreement of cooperation on a number of areas that will be beneficial to both the countries and go a long way in Indian assistance to Maldives' development and progress.
The other pacts signed included one on renovation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the main referral hospital in Maldives. Singh said work would be taken up on full swing and India expects to hand over the renovated facility by May 2013.
The two leaders reaffirmed their unequivocal and uncompromising position against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, the joint statement said.
Recognising that their security interests are interlinked in the region, they reiterated their assurance that each side would be sensitive to the concerns of the other on the issue and that their respective territories would not be allowed for any activity inimical to the other and by any quarter.
India also extended a Line of Credit (LOC) of USD 40 million to Maldives for the construction of 500 housing units. Both sides agreed to undertake measures to strengthen links in the banking and financial sectors, including by improving credit and insurance facilities and assistance in the establishment of development finance institutions. It was agreed to enhance connectivity by air and sea, in particular through shipping links and ferry services.
The two leaders directed officials to expeditiously work towards starting a regular passenger-cum-cargo ferry service between Kochi and Male and other destinations between the two nations. Singh announced that India would undertake a feasibility study on the development of the regional port in Kulduffushi in Maldives.
The two leaders also directed that direct flights between Mumbai/Delhi- Male sectors be operationalised soon. The two leaders recognised the need to pursue reform of the main UN bodies, including the revitalisation of the UN General Assembly and expansion of the UN Security Council. Nasheed reiterated his country's support for India's candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council.