India to roll out red carpet for Maldives Prez

Synopsis

The second official visit by Solih since his election in 2018 will focus on connectivity, maritime security, trade, and economic and tourism cooperation, officials said.

Maldives President Ibu Solih

India will roll out the red carpet for Maldives President Ibu Solih when he arrives here Monday on a four-day visit, in the backdrop of New Delhi’s goal to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean Region amid political and economic instability in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

The second official visit by Solih since his election in 2018 will focus on connectivity, maritime security, trade, and economic and tourism cooperation, officials said. The Maldives has been one of the biggest recipients of India’s assistance since 2020 and several infra projects have been implemented notwithstanding Covid-19. Indian tourists provided a much-needed lifeline to the Maldives once it opened up in 2020.

Solih will be accompanied by a high-level official and business delegation. Besides official engagements, here he will be holding discussion with an Indian business delegation in Delhi. Ge will also visit Mumbai to participate in business events.

India has been extending full cooperation in connectivity in the Greater Male Connectivity Project, which is the largest project in that country. For this, India has extended a credit line of $400 million and also a grant of $100 million. Once the project is completed, through bridges, causeways and roads, the capital Male will be connected with Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi islands. Also, an $800 million credit line extended by India is being implemented across sectors since 2019. Foreign minister S Jaishankar visited Addu City in the Maldives in March when several agreements were signed.

Ahead of Solih’s trip, Maldives defence force chief Major General Abdulla Shamaal visited India to expand defence cooperation and met with the navy chief. He said there were great lessons to learn from India in areas of international relations, diplomacy, all-inclusive political and democratic evolution. Shamaal was addressing officer cadets of the Indian Army, while reviewing the passing out parade at the Indian Army Officers Training Academy, in Chennai.

India provides the largest number of training opportunities for the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of its defence training requirements. India has trained more than 1,400 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years and has offered 300 (Including SPG, NSG and MIO training) training vacancies in 2021. A $50 million defence credit line was concluded during the foreign minister’s visit to the Maldives in February 2021.

The Maldives is in India’s immediate neighbourhood where China has stepped up its strategic objectives and New Delhi can ill-afford instability there. The Maldives has been rocked from time to time by anti-India protests, led by former President Abdullah Yameen.

( Originally published on Jul 31, 2022 )

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