India's time-tested relationship with Maldives poised to take quantum jump: Jaishankar

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Male, Feb 20 (PTI) India's time-tested relationship with the Maldives is poised to take a quantum jump, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday as he held talks with his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and handed over 100,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the country.

The two ministers discussed COVID-19 recovery, various projects being undertaken under Indian assistance, and cooperation in multilateral platforms.

The two sides witnessed the exchange of agreements on a wide range of domains the two countries are working on together, including fish processing, public broadcasting, sustainable urban development, road infrastructure and housing.

Jaishankar said the signing of these agreements is emblematic of the strong and multi-faceted development partnership between the two countries.

Jaishankar, who arrived here on the first leg of his two-nation tour that will also take him to Mauritius, handed over 100,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Foreign Minister and Health Minister Kerafa Naseem.

India last month had provided 1,00,000 doses of Covisheild vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), to the Maldives as part of India's grant assistance.

'Our time-tested relationship is posed today for a quantum jump, scaling new heights and touching the lives of the people like never before,' Jaishankar said.

'We are partners in development but also in promoting peace and security in the region,' he said at a joint press conference with his Maldivian counterpart.

He said Maldives enjoy a central position in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Neighbourhood First Policy.

'India's first and largest COVID-19 vaccine support was given to the Maldives. It is the first country where India-made vaccines landed,' he said.

He said India has looked beyond post-COVID economic recovery and India's air travel bubble with the Maldives contributed significantly in reviving the tourism sector.

'An extraordinarily deep partnership reaffirmed. Comprehensive talks with FM @abdulla_shahid. Deeply appreciate our close cooperation during Covid. Agreed to look beyond at post-pandemic economic recovery,' Jaishankar tweeted after the talks with Shahid.

After the talks, Shahid said they had a productive meeting and the two sides discussed several issues, including projects being carried out with Indian financial support, Covid-19 pandemic and recovery, consular matters and multilateral cooperation.

Later, speaking at an event at Ekuveni Stadium here Jaishankar offered a USD 40 million Line of Credit to the Maldives in a bid to boost the sports infrastructure of the country.

He said that India acknowledges the high priority accorded by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to sports… and India is privileged to be a partner in that effort.

“I am happy to announce that in order to support the development of sports infrastructure to fulfil the interests and aspirations of the Maldivian people, India has offered a standalone Line of Credit of USD 40 million for sports infrastructure in the Maldives,” Jaishankar said.

He said that the Maldivian people have tremendous sporting talent.

'India is a trusted and reliable partner,' the minister said in his address.

Jaishankar is visiting the Maldives at the invitation of Shahid. It is his second official visit to the Maldives, following his visit to attend the 5th Indian Ocean Conference in 2019.

According to the Maldivian Foreign Ministry, Jaishankar, during his visit, will inaugurate some projects undertaken with Indian grant assistance and witness the exchange of several agreements and MoUs between the two countries.

In the Maldives, Jaishankar will call on President Solih and have substantive discussions with the ministers for defence, finance, economic development and planning and infrastructure, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement in New Delhi earlier this week. PTI PMS CPS AKJ PMS PMS