Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Maldives on Saturday on his first foreign visit after re-election to strengthen the bilateral ties, reflecting the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
Mr. Modi was received at Male airport by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
“Friendship forever! PM @narendramodi arrives in Male, capital of Maldives to a warm reception by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid. PM was last here for President (Ibrahim Mohamed) Solih’s inauguration ceremony in November 2018,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Twitter.
While Mr. Modi visited the Maldives in November 2018 to attend President Solih’s swearing-in, this visit is the first by an Indian Prime Minister at a bilateral level in eight years.
The two-day visit is aimed at further cementing ties with the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Maldives’ highest honour
Mr. Modi was conferred with the Maldives’ highest honour “Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen” during his two-day state visit to the country.
The prestigious award was presented to Mr. Modi by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih during a ceremony.
“The Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen” is the Maldives’ highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said on Twitter.
Mr. Modi arrived in the Maldives on his first foreign visit after re-election as Prime Minister to strengthen the bilateral ties, reflecting the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
Mr. Modi said India considers the country as a valued partner with whom it shares deep bonds of history and culture.
During the visit, the Prime Minister will address the Maldivian Parliament, the Majlis, an indication of India’s important position in the neighbourhood.
Meeting of top leadership
He is expected to meet the top leadership of the Maldives to strengthen the relationship at the highest level.
To assist the Maldives in its development and revival of its economy, a slew of MoUs are expected to be signed including budgetary support for development projects, extending the Line of Credit for projects like water supply and sewerage, high impact community development projects, customs and white shipping, official sources said.
To consolidate people-to-people relations, Modi’s latest emphasis is on cricket diplomacy in the island nation, helping the mission of President Solih to develop cricket, they said.
Giving a push to enhance connectivity, India is planning to start a ferry service from Kochi to the Maldives, the sources said.
The two leaders will jointly inaugurate two defence related projects — a coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF), strengthening defence ties, they said.
Mr. Modi is also expected to hold separate discussions with Foreign Minister Shahid and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year. However, ties were back on track under Solih’s presidency.
His visit demonstrates the priority that India attaches to the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine, the sources added.