PM Modi's Maldives visit: From cricket to defence, what will be on Prime Minister's agenda
It is after 8 years that an Indian Prime Minister will be on a state visit to the Maldives, the last was by former PM Manmohan Singh in 2011. During the visit, PM Modi will address the Maldivian Parliament, the Majlis and meet the top leadership. Many Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) are expected to be signed including training of civil servants, customs and white shipping.
Maldives as development partner
While sharing 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, to assist the Maldives as a development partner, and to strengthen people-to-people contact".
PM Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, earlier this year, signed pacts to bolster the bilateral ties. Prime Minister's latest visit is expected to enhance the ties further and boost mutual cooperation between the two South Asian nations.
India and Maldives signed four agreements earlier this year. One was an agreement on the facilitation of visa arrangements which will ease the issuance of visas for the people of both countries.
The Maldives is one of the very few countries with which India enjoys a visa-free arrangement.
Both PM Modi and President Solih will jointly inaugurate two defence related projects - One is the coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives national defence forces (MNDF) - at a total cost of $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 FS Gokhale. The coastal surveillance radar system will help Malé monitor white shipping and preserve its sovereignty in EEZ or Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Maldives is keen to have its own cricket team and a cricket stadium and asked for Indian assistance. India in May sent a team of BCCI to the Maldives for the training of Maldivian cricketers.
India has given cricket kits and is expected to coach Maldivian cricketers. Earlier, 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.
India is planning to start a ferry service from Kochi, Kerala to the Maldives which the foreign secretary said will "significantly enhance connectivity".
India is also working on 14 high impact community projects which involves connectivity within the island, drug rehab centre and the total cost is Rs 50 crore. New Delhi also plans to provide speed boats for students.