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India, Maldives ink 6 pacts, resolve to boost defence ties

India, Maldives ink 6 pacts, resolve to boost defence ties
Moving forward after a spell of unease in ties, India and Maldives on Monday inked six pacts, including a key one on expanding defence cooperation. This came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the island nation Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom held wide-ranging talks on a range of key issues.

Combating terrorism and radicalisation, enhancing India’s involvement in major infrastructure projects like development of ports and Special Economic Zones in Maldives figured prominently in the talks but the central focus was on defence and security ties. 

Listing details of the outcome of the deliberations, Modi, at a joint press interaction with Yameen, said India “understands its responsibility as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region and India is fully ready to protect its military interest in this part of the globe”. 

Relations between India and Maldives hit a rough patch after Modi had cancelled a trip to the country last year, following the arrest of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

There has been apprehension in the establishment here about China’s growing involvement in the Indian Ocean region and in Maldives.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Maldives in October last year, aiming to improve ties with the strategically located country, where China has been trying to expand influence.

Modi said a concrete action plan for stepping up defence cooperation had been arrived at, whose early implementation would significantly strengthen the ties. “It is an important day in the history of cooperation between India and Maldives,” he said, asserting that contours of the ties between the two countries “is defined by engagement in military, defence and economic spheres” 

Modi added that it was in India’s strategic interest to have a stable and secure Maldives and that its challenges were India’s concerns.

“We are conscious of the security needs of Maldives. President Yameen has agreed that Maldives will be sensitive to our strategic and security interests. It is clear that the contours of India-Maldives relations are defined by our shared strategic, security, economic and developmental goals,” Modi said.

On his part, Yameen said his country pursues an “India first” foreign policy and described it as the most important friend of Maldives.

The ‘action plan’ on defence envisages an institutional mechanism at the level of the Defence Secretaries to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation.

In the talks it was agreed that India would set up a police academy, build the Defence Ministry building of the Maldives, besides speeding up infrastructure projects relating to security. India will also extend all possible assistance to the island nation, including in maritime sphere and capacity building of armed forces. 
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