India, Maldives sign $4.5 mn agreement for community development projects
India and the Maldives on Friday signed an agreement for a grant of $4.5 million for implementing community development projects in the Indian Ocean archipelago that is seen as a key pillar of New Delhi’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
The agreement was signed by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid, who is also president-elect of the UN General Assembly. Shahid is currently on a three-day visit to India.
The Maldives has benefited from large India-backed infrastructure projects worth $2 billion. The smaller high impact community development projects are a key part of India’s cooperation with the Maldives and the agreement signed by the ministers will lead to an additional outlay of MVR 70 million for projects to be implemented by local councils.
“To support decentralisation efforts of Govt of President @ibusolih, an addl. grant of MVR 70 mn ($4.5 mn) has been extended to carry out high-impact projects in #Maldives through Local Councils. An MoU was signed during FM @abdulla_shahid’s ongoing visit to formalise this,” the Indian high commission in the Maldives said in a tweet.
Shahid tweeted that the high impact community development projects, funded with grant assistance from India, are “immensely impactful”. He added, “I am delighted that today, we paved the way for more projects to be funded under this scheme with the envelope being increased to MVR 155 million.”
In a tweet, Jaishankar described the community projects in the Maldives as “Neighbourhood first in action”. He added that he had a “warm meeting” with Shahid and discussed the priorities of his presidency at the UN General Assembly.
Shahid, on his first foreign visit since his election to the UN post on July 7, also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The prime minister felicitated Shahid on his vision statement for a “Presidency of Hope”, and assured him of India’s full support and cooperation during his presidency.
Modi said Shahid’s victory in the election reflects the growing stature of the Maldives on the world stage, and emphasised the importance of reforming the multilateral system, including UN organs, to reflect contemporary realities and the aspirations of a majority of the world’s population.
Modi also expressed satisfaction that bilateral projects are progressing well despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and pointed to the importance of the Maldives as a “key pillar of India’s Neighbourhood First policy and vision of SAGAR”.
The Maldives was the first country to receive made-in-India vaccines in January, and this was preceded by health and humanitarian aid in 2020, including 12 tonnes of medicines, and a soft loan of $250 million for budgetary support.