Reflecting growing congruence in their relationship, India and Maldives today decided to intensify bilateral cooperation in diverse fields including trade, commerce, security, combating piracy and terrorism as well as enhancing people-to-people contact.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna called on Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and held wide ranging talks. He also met his Maldivian counterpart Ahmed Naseem during which both sides decided further intensification in their relationship.

“Both the countries understand the importance of cooperation in the field of defence and security and we are determined to work jointly considering our security interests.

We are cooperating to combat piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking and other possible threat to our countries,” Mr. Krishna told reporters after the meetings.

Identifying piracy as a common threat to both the countries, Krishna said, the two countries are enhancing cooperation in this regard.

Both the sides, in their meetings discussed various bilateral, regional and internal issues concerning both the countries while identifying the need to enhance trade ties between the two countries.

“We had traditionally very good relationship with Maldives and I am pleased with a steady expansion of our bilateral ties with Maldives including sectors like trade, investment, HRD development, capacity building and tourism,” Mr. Krishna said.

The bilateral annual trade was around Rs 400 crore in 2009-10. Officials said India was willing to provide all security assistance to Maldives provided they convey their specific requirements.

Sources said India may help the country in providing security during the course of the 17th SAARC summit to be held in November this year.

“Let me reaffirm that India attaches highest importance to its relationship with Maldives and seeks a deeper and stronger partnership with the country,” Mr. Krishna said.

As part of efforts to enhance connectivity, sources said a ferry service will soon be started between Male and Kochi, Kerala.

They said Civil Aviation Ministry has already given go ahead to a private carrier to start flight service between Mumbai and Male. Currently flights operate from Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore to Male.

In a goodwill gesture, Krishna on Thursday handed over USD 5 million as cash assistance to Maldives to organise the SAARC summit in November this year.

Mr. Krishna said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was looking forward to his visit to Maldives in November to participate in the SAARC summit.

He also inaugurated an Indian cultural centre which will act as a facilitator in cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Meanwhile, coinciding the visit of Mr. Krishna, a unique Indo-Maldives PPP project was announced on Thursday set up a USD 200 million global knowledge and medical hub including a medical tourist resort in Maldives.

At a function, Maldives’ Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem handed over the land for the chancery for the Indian High Commission.

Mr. Krishna also visited Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Male, which is being renovated and upgraded with Indian assistance.

The 200-beded hospital in Male was established in 1995 with India contributing Rs 42.5 crore. It now serves as the most advanced tertiary care hospital in the country and is easily the most visible symbol of India’s assistance to the Maldives.

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