PM Modi Strengthens Bilateral Ties With Maldives, Receives Country’s Highest Honour
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih held wide-ranging talks on Saturday as the two countries signed a slew of agreements to strengthen bilateral ties in a number of key areas including defence and maritime.
The Indian Prime Minister was also conferred with the Maldives' highest honour "Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen" on Saturday during his two-day state visit to the country.
The prestigious award was presented to Modi by President Solih during a ceremony here.
"The Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen" is the Maldives' highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said on Twitter.
Modi arrived in the Indian Ocean archipelago on Saturday on his first foreign visit after re-election as Prime Minister to strengthen the bilateral ties, reflecting the importance India attaches to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy.
Prime Minister Modi and President Solih held warm discussions, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
"Mutually beneficial partnership. Warm discussions marked the meeting between PM @narendramodi & President of Maldives @ibusolih. Focus on further deepening our special relationship by expanding cooperation across sectors," he said on Twitter.
The two leaders jointly inaugurated coastal surveillance radar system and a composite training centre for the Maldives defence forces. After the talks, Modi said that maritime and defence ties are a top priority and the radar system will boost maritime security. India is committed to help the Maldives in every way possible, he added.
Modi on Friday said his visit to the Maldives reflects the importance India attaches to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy. He said India considers the country as a valued partner with whom it shares deep bonds of history and culture.
While Modi visited the Maldives in November 2018 to attend President Solih's swearing-in, this visit is the first by an Indian prime minister at a bilateral level in eight years.
The relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year.
Some decisions by Yameen including imposition of restrictions on work visas for Indians and signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing also did not go down well with New Delhi.
However, ties were back on track under Solih's presidency.
China views the Maldives as key to its Maritime Silk Road project in the Indian Ocean as it has already acquired Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.