New Delhi, Dec 4 (PTI) As a close friend and maritime neighbour, India is committed to partnering with the Maldives for its development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.
The two countries will also enhance cooperation for peace and mutual security in the Indian Ocean Region, he asserted at an event, which was held in New Delhi and Male simultaneously through video-conferencing.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih attended the event in Male.
The Indian government's 'Neighbourhood First' and Male's 'India First' policies have strengthened bilateral cooperation in all sectors, Modi said.
'As a close friend and maritime neighbour, India is committed to continue partnering with the Maldives for democracy and development. We will also enhance our cooperation for peace and mutual security in the Indian Ocean region,' he said in New Delhi.
In the coming years, projects under Indian assistance will bring more benefits to the people of the Maldives, the prime minister said.
President Solih conveyed his commitment to deepen cooperation and partnership with India.
Both the leaders have agreed to work closely to enhance cooperation for peace, prosperity and mutual security, and for the wider Indian Ocean region. India also gifted a fast interceptor vessel 'Kaamiyab' to the island nation.
'This advanced vessel has been constructed by L&T in my home state, Gujarat. It will help enhance the Maldive's maritime security and promote your blue economy and tourism,' Modi said.
Solih said the 28-metre-long patrol vessel will greatly enhance the Maldivian Coast Guard's abilities.
Maritime cooperation has been an important element in India-Maldives ties. During Solih's visit to India in December last year, the two leaders had agreed to strengthen cooperation to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information and capacity building.
Four bilateral grant projects covering a gamut of development partnership between India and the Maldives were highlighted during the event.
Prime Minister Modi said a cancer Hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhulmalé is also being built.
An MoU between the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Bank of Maldives (BML) was also exchanged to launch the RuPay Card in the Maldives.
RuPay payment mechanism -- an Indian concept -- will further ease the travel of Indians to the Maldives, Modi said.
Indian tourist figures in the Maldives have more than doubled. This week, three direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru have also started, he said.
The three grant projects, on which MoUs were exchanged, are for setting up neighbourhood fish plants in the southernmost atoll of Addu.
Solih said fish production units was a key pledge of his government. This will help in getting better price of fish, generate employment and enhance incomes of people.
These projects are being implemented under the MoU signed during late Sushma Swaraj's visit to the Maldives early this year.
Around 2,500 LED street lights donated by India have been installed in Male recently that is expected to save 80 per cent energy and save nearly MVR 8.35 lakh every year of the Male city.
'India is very happy to bring to them benefits of these environment friendly lights,' Modi said.
The prime minister said work on the water and sanitation projects in 34 islands and Roads and Reclamation work in Addu will begin soon. PTI PR PR ANB ANB