Coastal surveillance radar system, ferry service from Kochi high on PM Modi's agenda during Maldives visit

WION New Delhi Jun 07, 2019, 08.53 AM(IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

PM Modi with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

The Maldives is keen to have its own cricket team and a cricket stadium.

PM Modi will be leaving for the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Saturday which will be his first foreign visit after the general elections. 

It has been eight years since an Indian PM visited the Maldives, the last was by Manmohan Singh in 2011. During the visit, PM Modi will address Maldivian Parliament, the Majlis and meet the top leadership. Many MoUs are expected to be signed including training of civil servants, customs and white shipping.

While giving details of the visit, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said, "The PM's visit is focused on three objectives, firstly it is to maintain contact at the highest level between the close neighbours, we want to assist the Maldives as a development partner, in the revival and development of there economy and third to strengthen people-to-people contact"
 
Defence

Both PM Modi and President Solih will jointly inaugurate two defence related projects - the coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives national defence forces (MNDF) -  the total value of the two projects is $180 crores. The composite training centre was requested by the Maldives to provide a central training facility and "will enhance the capability of MNDF", according to foreign secretary Gokhale. The coastal surveillance radar system will help Malé monitor white shipping and preserve its sovereignty in EEZ or exclusive economic zone.

Cricket

The Maldives is keen to have its own cricket team and a cricket stadium and asked for Indian assistance. India in May had sent a team of BCCI to the Maldives for the training of Maldivian cricketers, the supply of kits. India has given cricket kits and is expected to coach Maldivian cricketers. India had invited President Solih in April for an IPL match in Bengaluru. India sees it as important "people-to-people" exercise and has in the past helped countries like Afghanistan.

Connectivity

India is planning to start a ferry service from Kochi to the Maldives which the foreign secretary said will "significantly enhance connectivity". India is also working on fourteen high impact community projects which involves connectivity within the island, drug rehabilitation centre at a cost of Rs 50 crore. New Delhi also plans to provide speed boats for students.

In the last eight months, since the new government led by President Solih took charge in November last year, there have been a number of high-level visits.

While President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and Defence minister Mariya Ahmed Didi visited India, PM Modi was in the country for the swearing-in ceremony of Solih and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited the country in March.

PM Modi will also be making a short and packed visit to Sri Lanka, while coming back from the Maldives on Sunday. 

During the visit, PM Modi will meet Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka's Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and R. Sampanthan, president of the Tamil National Alliance.

Foreign security Vijay Gokhale said: "Visit to Sri Lanka is to show solidarity with the people and government of Sri Lanka in the wake of the tragic events of April 21st and expressing our confidence in the government of Sri Lanka in overcoming this national tragedy".

"PM Modi will very clearly signal his commitment and intention of the government at the highest level to build a strong relationship based on mutual trust and mutual sensitivity to each other's concerns in the coming five years and discuss ways to enhance development partnership."

PM will be the first foreign leader to visit Sri Lanka after the Easter terror attacks in which over 250 people were killed. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had visited India last week for the oath-taking ceremony of PM Modi.

PM Modi has visited Sri Lanka twice in his first term, first in March of 2015 when he travelled to Anuradhapura, Talaimannar and Jaffna and then in 2017 when he was the chief guest at the Vesak day celebrations.

During PM's Jaffna visit, India had announced that it will hand over 14,000 houses to upcountry Tamils (Indian origin Tamils). The first tranche of houses of 1,500 was handed in August 2018, rest will be handed later this year and the first half of next year. 

India has also provided over 280 ambulances to the country for the emergency service which was launched in July, 2016 under the Indian Grant Assistance of $7.55 million. 

Japan is trilaterally working with Sri Lanka to develop an LNG terminal and east container terminal at the Colombo port. On the connectivity front, India is providing railway rolling stock under an earlier line of credit of Rs 2800 crore.