India and Maldives decided to put security and development at the heart of their bilateral ties by signing a Framework Agreement of Cooperation and Development and a memorandum of understanding which will provide the bedrock for joint cooperation in safeguarding each other’s security interests.
In a meeting with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed a day after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also announced a $ 100 million credit facility to help the island nation stabilise its fiscal position. The Maldives faces a serious credit crunch and had to allow its currency, the Rufiyaa, to float in a limited band to tide over the crisis.
With pirates having sacked Mahe port in Seychelles and many students who went to Pakistani madrasas coming under the ideological influence of the Salafi ideology, Maldives has integrated its radar network with that of the Indian Navy’s Southern Command and sought more avenues for its students to study in a more secular environment.
The Indian offer for enhanced security and developmental assistance comes days after China opened its mission here, though it has more to cater to its increasing business interests and employment to its personnel in the hospitality industry.
Memoranda of Understanding
India and the Maldives signed agreements relating to combating terrorism, drug trafficking, disaster management and coastal security; on transfer of sentenced prisoners; on cooperation in the field of culture for 2012-2015; construction of 10,000 houses costing $ 40 million; on developing a police training academy; on enhancing ferry services and port development and on upgradation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male, which is the referral hospital in The Maldives. The renovation work is expected to be completed in 2013.
“We have succeeded in defining new frontiers for our cooperation – cooperation that have tangible effect on the lives of common citizens,” Dr.Singh, later told the People’s Majlis, the Maldivian Parliament. This is the first time in the 78-year-old history of the Majlis that a foreign head of government or head of state is addressing the Majlis.
The Indian assistance will go a long way for Maldives development, Mr.Nasheed said. On the promise to increase connectivity, he said that he hoped that this would also include the islands of Minicoy in the Lakshadweep in India, which is closest to Maldives. The Indian promise to undertake a feasibility study on developing a port north of Male (Kulduffuhsi) at the earliest possible time would mean that Maldives could start development of the northern parts. “I am convinced that the people of the Maldives will benefit immensely from the agreement,” he said.
Later in a joint statement, among other things, the two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, capacity building and the development of an effective legal framework against piracy. “In furtherance of the shared recognition that the security interests of both the countries are interlinked in the region, they reiterated their assurance that each side would be sensitive to the concerns of the other on the issue and that their respective territories would not be allowed for any activity inimical to the other and by any quarter. It was agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation on issues of common concern, including piracy, terrorism, organized crime, drugs and human trafficking. It was also agreed to intensify cooperation in the areas of training and capacity building of police and security forces,” the joint statement added.