External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih have jointly participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Hanimaadhoo international airport redevelopment project, a “historic milestone” in the robust India-Maldives development partnership.
Mr. 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.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr. Jaishankar said India’s partnership with the Maldives is based on its genuine desire to work together for each other’s welfare and interests.
“It is a partnership that has enabled us to swiftly and effectively respond to challenges, as we saw recently during the Covid pandemic. It is a partnership that has enabled us to deliver results and bring about tangible benefits to our peoples in accordance with their wishes, aspirations and priorities,” he said on Jan. 18 evening.
“Now we all know that the current complex geopolitical environment has thrown up new disruptions which are impacting every country in the world.
“The need for cooperation and collaboration has assumed even greater importance in this context,” he said.
India has extended support to Maldives to address the evolving economic challenges, including through emergency financial assistance and strongly reaffirmed New Delhi’s firm commitment to continued cooperation to Male.
Mr. Jaishankar said the initiation of the Hanimaadhoo international airport development project marks a “historic milestone” in the robust India-Maldives development partnership.
“Joined President @ibusolih and his Ministers and local leaders at the ground-breaking ceremony of Hanimaadhoo International Airport Development Project,” he tweeted.
“This project will bridge the gap between the people of Northern Maldives and the rest of the world and bring our peoples together. And India is privileged to be with the Maldives for its implementation,” he said at the ceremony attended by a broad spectrum of Members of Parliament and representatives from the Atoll councils in the Maldives. Mr. Jaishankar said better connectivity is a prerequisite for greater prosperity and with this rationale, greater connectivity finds resonance in India’s theme for the G20 Presidency – ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.
“It is our endeavour to share India’s experiences, learnings and models as possible templates for others, particularly in the developing world and to promote a universal sense of oneness through enhancing connectivity,” he said.
Mr. Jaishankar later tweeted that the rising number of Indian tourists in the Maldives is a ‘reflection of our deepening ties and are outcomes of focus on infrastructure and connectivity, especially under the Modi Government.” President Solih described the airport development project as a well-planned, studied and executed project.
The historic project is the largest and most significant infrastructure project initiated outside the Male region. Funded through an MVR2.1 billion loan from the Exim Bank of India, the project is contracted to India-based firm JMC Projects, Mr. Solih said.
President Solih said the northern region would see economic progress upon the completion of the project as it would increase tourism facilities, including guesthouses and city hotels, drive job creation in the northern atolls, and transform the region into an economic hub.
He underscored that the airport project coupled with the redevelopment of the Kulhudhuffushi Regional Port and connectivity through the Raajje Transport Link (RTL) high-speed ferry services would help the administration transform northern Maldives into the perfect model of a thriving economy.
Providing details on the airport development projects underway in particular, President Solih said that while Hoarafushi Airport and Faresmaathoda Airport projects have been completed, his administration has also mobilised resources for the Maafaru International Airport project.
Earlier, Mr. Jaishankar was given a traditional Maldivian welcome when he arrived at Manadhoo, the capital of Noonu Atoll in the Maldives, on Wednesday.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka are India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupy a special place in the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and ‘Neighbourhood First’.