NEW DELHI (AP) — India will give a $100 million line of credit to the Maldives to support development projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday after holding talks with his counterpart, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Solih arrived in India on Monday for a four-day visit. The two countries inked six agreements to boost cooperation in several areas, including disaster management, cyber security and affordable housing.
The two leaders also marked the start of construction on the Greater Male Connectivity Project, a 6.74- kilometer- (4.2 mile)- long bridge and causeway funded by India that will connect the nation's capital, Male, to three other islands.
Both stressed the importance of close ties between their two countries as vital for peace and stability in the region.
“There has been renewed vigor in the friendly ties between India and Maldives. Our closeness has increased,” Modi said, adding that despite challenges sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, cooperation between the two countries has strengthened.
Solih said the two leaders discussed terrorism and the need to “enhance maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean region”. Neither mentioned China, but Solih's election in 2018 marked a shift from his predecessor, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who developed close ties with Beijing in an area India considers as its backyard.
India has been concerned by Yameen's leaning towards China, which has sought to gain more influence in the Indian Ocean. The former president had pledged support for China's Belt and Road Initiative, with the country investing in many infrastructure projects in the Maldives.
“The Maldives will always remain a true friend of India,” Solih said on Tuesday, adding that the relationship between the two will be “of the highest priority”.
His visit follows an announcement that he will run for re-election in 2023. Since coming to power, the Maldivian president has touted his government's “India-first policy” and has pledged full support toward deepening ties with New Delhi.