New Delhi: A defence cooperation pact and five other agreements to expand bilateral ties were inked between India and Maldives on Monday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the archipelago nation Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom held talks including ways to combat terrorism and radicalisation.
During the deliberations, India assured Maldives it was ready to protect its strategic interests in the region and would extend all possible assistance, including in maritime sphere and capacity building of armed forces, as part of an action plan in the defence sector.
India has also decided to speed up infrastructure projects like development of ports in the country where China was trying to expand its foothold. The other agreements signed were in the fields of taxation, tourism, space research and conservation. “It is an important day in the history of cooperation between India and Maldives,” the Prime Minister said at a joint press interaction with Yameen, listing outcomes of the talks.
The Prime Minister said threat of cross border terrorism, challenge of radicalisation and overall security scenario in the Indian Ocean region were discussed and both sides agreed to step up cooperation in these areas.
“We are conscious of security needs of Maldives; President Yameen agreed that Maldives will be sensitive to our strategic and security interests. It is clear that the contours of India-Maldives relations are defined by our shared strategic, security, economic and developmental goals,” Modi said.
Modi also said it is in India’s strategic interest to have a stable and secure Maldives and that its challenges are India’s concerns. On his part, Yameen said his country pursues an “India first” foreign policy and described it as most important friend of Maldives.
Talking about SAARC, the Maldivian President said both Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have to play key role in realising true potential of the region. “The prompt implementation of a concrete action plan in the defence sector will strengthen our defence cooperation. Development of ports, continuous training, capacity building, supply of equipment and maritime surveillance will be its main elements,” the Prime Minister said.
He said India understands its role as a “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean and was ready to protect its strategic interests in this region. “President Yameen and I are aware of the growing dangers of cross border terrorism and radicalisation in South Asia. Information exchanges between security agencies and training and capacity building of Maldives Police and security forces is important part of our security cooperation,” he said.
Modi said India India is ready to partner Maldives in its ambitious iHaven project. The iHaven project is one of the most important projects in President Yameen’s economic vision, and is being developed under the new laws of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
The project has six main goals, including developing an airport, a harbour, bunkering services, real estate, shopping malls, and resorts in the atoll.