India, Maldives must together ensure regional security: EAM S Jaishankar : The Tribune India

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India, Maldives must together ensure regional security: EAM S Jaishankar

India, Maldives must together ensure regional security: EAM S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid at Manadhoo on Wednesday. PTI



Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 18

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reached the Maldives on Wednesday as part of his two-leg overseas tour and with his counterpart Abdullah Shahid reviewed India’s ambitious development projects in the island that will far surpass earlier Chinese efforts at building infrastructure there.

After the ground-breaking ceremony of the Hanimaadhoo International Airport expansion, Jaishankar said it was one of the most anticipated projects. He said at a press conference that another equally ambitious project, the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), would become an “economic corridor”.

"We are good neighbours. We are strong partners. We have mutually invested in development and progress. But we also together have a responsibility for peace and security in the region," the minister said in a joint press appearance along with Shahid.

Recently, the Maldives signed an agreement with Indian company JMC Projects Limited to develop the Hanimaadhoo International Airport at a cost of $136.6 million to be financed by India’s Exim Bank. Male has also awarded to another Indian company, Afcons Infrastructure, the GMCP project for a 6.74-km bridge and causeway worth $500 million.

Jaishankar will also visit Colombo, where Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday said talks with India and China on debt restructuring were successful. The External Affairs Minister had earlier visited Sri Lanka in January 2021 and March 2022. “During the visit, the EAM will call on Wickremesinghe and PM Dinesh Gunawardena and also hold discussions with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry on the close India-Sri Lanka partnership and steps to strengthen it in all spheres,” said an MEA statement.

The MEA release also said both Maldives and Sri Lanka were India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupies a special place in Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and ‘Neighbourhood First’. The maritime security issue has given rise to bad blood in Maldives politics. The pro-China Progressive Party of Maldives, which was the ruling party from 2013 to 2018, is opposed to India’s plans to open a consulate in Addu, a strategically located atoll about 500 km from the capital Male, which was a British air and naval base to interdict German U-boats in the Indian Ocean during World War II.

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