India and Maldives signed a slew of agreements spread over areas of defence, trade and science on Saturday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a high-profile visit to the archipelago nation, his first overseas diplomatic engagement since being re-elected. The leaders of the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to the bilateral relationship, with Modi pledging that India was “committed to help the Maldives in every way possible”. “There have been discussions over making the defence services stronger in Maldives. India wants a strong relationship with the Maldives and believes that a strong and prosperous Maldives will be in the interest of the region,” said Modi, who was given with the “Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen”, Maldives highest honour that was presented to him by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.Also read: Maldives confers its highest honour ‘Nishan Izzuddeen’ on PM ModiIn addition to the ceremony, Modi addressed the Maldives’ parliament and inaugurated two projects backed by India: a coastal radar system and a training centre for the archipelago’s defence forces. “The Indo-Pacific area is our lifeline and also the highway to trade. This is the key to our shared future in every sense,” Modi said in his address to lawmakers, underscoring India’s commitment to make the strategic Indo-Pacific an area for shared economic growth and reflecting the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.President Solih reaffirmed his government’s “India-First Policy” and pledged his full support towards deepening the multifaceted, mutually beneficial partnership between India and the Maldives, which has traditionally been characterised by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity.India and the Maldives also agreed to launch a ferry service connecting the two countries, and the leaders directed officials to expeditiously work towards starting a regular passenger-cum-cargo ferry service between Kerala’s Kochi and the Maldivian capital Male via Kulhudhuffushi atoll.The distance between Kochi and Male is about 700 kms, and between Kochi and Kulhudhuffushi atoll is 500 kms.Saturday’s talks covered a range of issues, and the two sides signed in all six agreements to bolster their special relationship and bilateral cooperation in areas like defence and maritime security.The first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was for cooperation in the fields of hydrography. Another was on health.The others included the one on the cargo service, cooperation in customs capacity building between the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs of India, and the Maldives Customs Service.An MoU was also signed between the National Centre for Good Governance, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Maldives Civil Service Commission on Training and Capacity Building Programme for Maldivian civil servants.“Mutually beneficial partnership. Warm discussions marked the meeting between PM @narendramodi & President of Maldives @ibusolih. Focus on further deepening our special relationship by expanding cooperation across sectors,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Twitter.After the talks, Prime Minister Modi said that the focus of the various projects that India is undertaking in the Maldives is to touch the lives of people.He said India has agreed on the construction of a Friday Mosque in the southern part of the Maldives where an urban development centre is being built.Prime Minister Modi said that the launch of RuPay Card in the Maldives will give a boost to tourism in the island nation.