Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday reached out to the “pearl of Indian Ocean”, Maldives, with a far-reaching framework agreement. He also announced a Standby Credit Facility of $100 million (approximately Rs 500 crore) to help stabilise the Maldivian fiscal position.
As first reported by HT, the agreement is an umbrella pact for future cooperation, similar to the one India signed with Bangladesh in September.
The agreement comes at a time when China is also making efforts to step up its ties with the island nation. China opened a full diplomatic mission in the Maldives on Tuesday, just two days before the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.
Singh termed the pact "historic" in his address to the Maldivian parliament.
He said, "This agreement puts in place a template for cooperation in a wide range of areas, such as trade and investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism, transportation, information technology, new and renewable energy, communications, and connectivity."
As many as six pacts were signed after talks between Singh and Maldives president Mohammed Nasheed.
Both countries also decided to step up cooperation on counter terrorism, maritime security in the Indian Ocean region and capacity building of police and security forces.
Singh, who became the first foreign leader to address the Maldivian parliament, talked at length about the importance of ensuring peace and prosperity in the region. "In many ways, India and Maldives are natural partners in this enterprise," Singh said in his address.
Over 97% of India's international trade by volume and 75% by value passes through the Indian Ocean, Singh pointed out.
He also offered a slew of measures in dealing with climate change, an issue crucial to this archipelago located on a crucial international shipping lane.