India on Tuesday signed six agreements with the Maldives to expand bilateral cooperation and offered an additional $100 million line of credit to support development projects in the island nation.
The six pacts signed in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will strengthen their cooperation in the areas of capacity building, cybersecurity, housing and disaster management.
Excellent meeting with the President @ibusolih. We have had the opportunity to review the full range of relations between our nations. India cherishes the close friendship with the Maldives. We work closely together in areas such as skills development, energy, innovation and more. pic.twitter.com/VVybU9iLDh
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 2, 2022
The two leaders also launched the Greater Male Connectivity Project, an Indian-funded 6.74 kilometer long bridge and causeway that will connect the island nation’s capital, Male, to three other islands. It is the largest infrastructure project in the Maldives, costing $500 million.
“We also looked today at plans to build 4,000 social housing units in Greater Male. I am happy to announce that we will provide additional financial support for 2,000 social housing units,” Modi said in a statement.
“We have also decided to provide an additional line of credit of $100 million so that all projects can be completed on time,” he added.
Modi said close relations between India and the Maldives are vital for peace and stability in the Indian Ocean, where the threat of transnational crime, terrorism and drug trafficking has become “serious”.
India also aims to boost defense cooperation with the island nation by providing 24 vehicles and a navy boat to Maldives security forces and assisting in the construction of police facilities on 61 islands in the Maldives.
“India has been and will continue to be the first responder in times of need or crisis in the Maldives,” Modi remarked.
India and China compete for influence
Solih arrived in India on Monday for a four-day official visit. He described relations between the Maldives and India as “the highest priority”, adding that his country “will always remain a true friend of India”.
Solih has touted an “India first policy” and vowed to fully support deepening ties with India since taking office in 2018, a departure of his predecessor, Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom, which has established close ties with Beijing.
India was concerned about Yameen’s inclination towards China, which sought to gain more influence in the Indian Ocean. Yameen has pledged to support Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, with China investing in numerous infrastructure projects in the Maldives.
Yameen ruled the Maldives from 2013 to 2018. He was accused of corruption and stifling dissent and the media during his tenure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.