Addressing a press conference after the 14th Foreign Ministerial Framework Dialogue (FMFD) with his Australian counterpart, he confirmed that the strain in ties between India and Canada did figure during the meeting.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Wednesday joined in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Hanimaadhoo international airport project.
“Joined President @ibusolih and his ministers and local leaders at the ground-breaking ceremony of Hanimaadhoo International Airport Development Project,” tweeted Jaishankar. Speaking at the ceremony, Jaishankar said, “For us, the redevelopment of Hanimaadhoo International Airport is first and foremost. This project will bridge the gap between the people of Northern Maldives and the rest of the world and bring our people together. And India is privileged to be with the Maldives for its implementation.”
“I am truly delighted to be part of today’s historic ceremony for the ground-breaking Hanimaadhoo International Airport Development Project. I bring to all of you the warm greetings and best wishes of India’s leadership, especially, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and of 1.3 billion plus Indians,” he added.
Jaishankar further said that the physical proximity of Northern atolls with India makes us even better appreciate the deep-rooted, long-standing and close linkages between our peoples and our countries.
Speaking about the importance India attaches to the Maldives, he said, “During the visit of PM Modi in June 2019, he spoke about the unique natural closeness of our countries and remarked that Neighbourhood First is our priority and in the neighbourhood Maldives is the priority.”
He also explained India’s G20 theme during its Presidency, he said, “Better connectivity is a prerequisite for greater prosperity with this rationale greater connectivity finds resonance in our theme for G20 Presidency – One Earth, One Family, One Future.”
Jaishankar said that India’s endeavour is to share its experiences, learnings and models as a possible template for others, particularly in the developing world and to promote a universal sense of oneness through enhancing connectivity.
This project is the largest infrastructure investment in the Northern Maldives that will open up new international operations from Hanimaadhoo. It will enable direct travel from the Northern atolls for business, medical and other purposes and further intensify people-to-people exchanges.
“This project will have a truly transformative impact on the economy of the Northern Maldives, it will help spur entrepreneurship, growth and employment opportunities, encourage tourism development and strengthen allied sectors, including fisheries and logistics which are critical for the balanced growth of this region,” said Jaishankar.
“This project is also a great example of the vision of decentralization of the Govt of Maldives. In India too, we lay emphasis on inclusive and equitable development,” he added.
Talking about the India-Maldives partnership, he said, “India’s partnership with the Maldives is based on our genuine desire to work together for each other’s welfare and interest. It is a partnership that has enabled us to swiftly and effectively respond to challenges as we saw recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a partnership that has enabled us to deliver results and bring about tangible benefits to our people in accordance with their wishes, aspirations and priorities.”
He said that the rising number of Indian tourists in Maldives is a reflection of deepening ties and outcomes of focus on infrastructure and connectivity, especially under the Modi Government.
“Signing of contract for the expansion of MIFCO facility will also be a major milestone that will augment livelihood opportunities. Our focus on capacity development has also been seen in the training programs which have benefited more than 900 Maldivian officials last year alone,” said Jaishankar.
He conveyed a strong message that India is a committed partner in Maldives’ journey of progress and transformation.
“India- Maldives relations are at an all-time high ever since @ibusolih took over as the President of the island nation in November 2018. His #Indiafirst policy is in tune with India’s #NeighbourhoodFirst Policy. Both are maritime neighbours & key partners in the #IOR,” tweeted Jaishankar.
Maldivian President Solih also lauded the relationship between the two countries at the ceremony. He said, “The relationship between India and Maldives is based on traditionally intertwined trade, culture and personal contact. Our relationship has remained unhindered through time. Over the last 4 years, India has become our largest economic partner contributing to the socio-economic development of the nation.”
Speaking about the importance of Hanimaadhoo international airport for the Northern Maldives, he said, “This is a very momentous occasion for the people of Thiladhummathi as they are witnessing their long dream of a modern and state of art international airport becoming a reality.”
He also thanked PM Modi for the assistance provided by India for the development of Hanimaadhoo international airport.
“My Govt and I acknowledge with deep appreciation the continued assistance provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his govt and the friendly people of India to the people of Maldives,” said Solih.
Meanwhile, thanking Jaishankar, he said, “- It is a great honour and privilege for us that the External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar is joining us on this joyous occasion. Your presence here the demonstration of the close bond between India and Maldives. May this friendship continue to flourish in the years to come.”
Parliament Speaker and President of the main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mohamed Nasheed also tweeted, “Very pleased to see an old friend @DrSJaishankar back in Maldives to break ground on the new Hanimaadhoo international airport. It’s a great project that will transform the North. Sorry I couldn’t join you today. @HCIMaldives.”
In response, Jaishankar tweeted, “Thank you for your warm words. A memorable function this evening in Hanimadhoo. Appreciate your continued support for #IndiaMaldives partnership.”
Jaishankar is on a three-day visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka to further expand bilateral engagement with the two key maritime neighbours of India.