Source: Government of India
Foreign Minister Hon’ble Abdulla Shahid,
Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Hon’ble Zaha Waheed,
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Hon’ble Ahmed Mahloof,
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hon’ble Ahmed Khaleel,
Members of Parliament,
Foreign Secretary Hon’ble Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
It is always a pleasure for me to visit this lovely country. I have had the honour to be associated with the Maldives in different capacities at different times and I am pleased to see our bilateral relations move from strength to strength.
The MoUs which we have signed today are emblematic of our strong development partnership which is multi-faceted and designed to meet the specific requirements of the Government and people of Maldives.
We deeply appreciate Government of President Solih for its “India First” foreign policy. This is reciprocated in full measure by our “Neighbourhood First” policy in which Maldives enjoys a very special and central place.
I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and his colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for tirelessly working to take our bilateral relations to new heights.
We have just signed two MoUs for High Impact Community Development Projects, an MoU on Cooperation in Sports and Youth Affairs and an MoU for a US$ 100 million grant to fund the Greater Male Connectivity Project which is the largest ever such infrastructure project undertaken in the Maldives.
The High Impact Community Development Projects benefit the communities in a very direct manner and promote socio-economic welfare of the people. Later today, I will attend an event to handover equipment for 67 children’s parks dispersed across the length of the country. I will also see the Ekuveni Park where a brand new running track is being laid out. Touching the lives of the people of Maldives is an important effort in the projects we choose to implement.
I am happy that our bilateral cooperation in the field of sports has progressed well in the last few years. I am confident that the MoU on Cooperation in Sports and Youth Affairs that we have signed today will serve as a useful framework for further enhancing our ongoing cooperation.
India is honoured to partner with the Maldives in the prestigious Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), an economic lifeline connecting Male with Vilingili, the new commercial port at Gulhifalhu and industrial zone at Thilafushi. Needless to say, the project will conform to the hallmarks of Indian development cooperation; transparency; full participation and ownership of the host country; and competitive pricing.
GMCP is among the several large-scale projects being carried out in the Maldives by India, which include infrastructure projects such as port, roads and reclamation, expansion of airports, building of new Cricket Stadium and cancer hospital and development of fisheries. We feel these projects will change the economic landscape of the Maldives and bring greater prosperity to the people.
We see an economically strong, resilient and prosperous Maldives as fundamentally in India’s interest.
Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen,
In today’s globalised and interconnected world, multilateral engagement is very important. We have always been supportive of the Maldives in various multilateral fora. We are happy that the Maldives has re-joined the Commonwealth in February this year and can continue to benefit from this historic organisation. We have also supported the Maldives in joining the Indian Ocean Regional Association where we feel that 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.
President Solih’s address to the UNGA last year was appreciated by one and all.
We feel that the Maldives should play a more prominent role in the UN. 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 Presidency of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly next year.
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. 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 Maldives in the United Nations.
India and Maldives have had to face the enormous uncertainties that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought in its wake. In mitigating this impact on our people and economy, we were also happy to extend assistance to the Maldives in dealing with the crisis.
Prime Minister during his visit to Maldives in June last year said ‘Neighbourhood First is our priority; and in the neighbourhood Maldives is priority’. 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 Maldives was the first and the largest recipient of India’s Covid-19 assistance in our neighbourhood.
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.
Let me conclude by extending heartfelt congratulations to the Government and people of Maldives on your 52nd Republic Day which will be celebrated on the 11th of November.
I thank you.
November 09, 2020