India, Maldives discuss ways to boost economic recovery
The two sides are set to sign four MoUs, including one for the grant of $100 million by India for the $500-million Greater Male Connectivity Project that will link the capital Male with three islandsUpdated: Nov 09, 2020, 16:26 IST
India and the Maldives on Monday discussed ways to boost the Indian Ocean archipelago’s economic recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including enhancing tourism and speeding up development projects.
The two sides are set to sign four memorandums of understanding (MoUs), including one for the grant of $100 million by India for the $500-million Greater Male Connectivity Project that will link the capital Male with three islands.
Talks in Male between visiting foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and his Maldivian counterpart Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed focused on economic recovery amid the pandemic. Shringla, who is on a two-day visit, also met President Ibrahim Solih to review bilateral ties.
The foreign secretaries discussed ways to strengthen and deepen the multi-faceted relationship, according to a statement from the Maldives’ foreign ministry.
They emphasised “recovery and resilience efforts to curb the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, including boosting tourism, accelerating the implementation of the ongoing development cooperation projects across the Maldives, and the means of elevating connectivity and bilateral trade between the Maldives and India”, the statement said.
The four MoUs expected to be signed during Shringla’s visit will cover the Greater Male Connectivity Project, cooperation in youth and sports affairs, setting up soil and plant testing laboratories, and establishing a drug detox facility.
India has unveiled a slew of measures to boost economy recovery in the Maldives, where the tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Last month, India provided a soft loan of $250 million as budgetary support, and announced a $500-million package in August to help build the Greater Male Connectivity Project. Besides the $100-million grant, India will provide a $400-million line of credit for the project.
The two sides also launched a cargo ferry service connecting Tuticorin and Cochin ports with Male in September to cut costs and time taken to transport goods.
Shringla and his Maldivian counterpart also discussed health and cultural cooperation, human resource development, and consular and community affairs. Ghafoor thanked the Indian government for its “constant support and commitment” for the development of the Maldives.
During his meeting with Solih, Shringla discussed ways to strengthen the bilateral partnership at a time when the two sides are marking the 55th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties.
The two sides also discussed ways to enhance regional trade and connectivity, economic cooperation, tourism and overcoming the pandemic. Solih thanked the Indian government for agreeing to implement an air bubble between the two countries and said increasing numbers of Indian tourists had visited the Maldives since it reopened its borders.
Solih also thanked India for backing development projects in the Maldives through line of credit agreements, including the Greater Male connectivity project, the Gulhifalhu port project, water and sewerage related projects in 34 islands and a cancer hospital.
The Maldives is the sixth country Shringla has visited in the aftermath of pandemic-related travel restrictions, the others being Bangladesh, Myanmar, France, Germany and the UK.