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Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Maldives today (Saturday, June 8) on his first trip outside the country in his second term at the Centre.

Prime Minister Modi landed in the country’s capital, Male, and inspected a Guard of Honour.

“Reached the Republic of Maldives. This visit indicates the importance India attaches to strong ties with the Republic of Maldives and the desire to boost cooperation in various spheres,” Modi tweeted.

He would later hold talks with President Ibrahim Solih and officials are also expected to hold delegation level talks in the evening.

The meetings will be followed by a joint press briefing about agreements that will be signed between the two countries.

Maldives is also planning to honour PM Modi with the Order of Nishanizzuddeen, a prestigious award in the country.

Prime Minister Modi will also be addressing the Maldives Parliament on Saturday.

Projects in pipeline

Modi, along with President Ibrahim Solih, will jointly inaugurate two key projects – the Coastal Surveillance Radar System and the Composite Training Centre of the Maldives National Defence Forces –  with an eye on China’s pro-active moves in the Indian Ocean region.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale described the two as “important projects”, valued at about Rs 180 crore, which will be remotely inaugurated by the two leaders. This is part of weaning away Maldives from Beijing, as China has made deep inroads into the Maldivian establishment during the Abdulla Yameen regime.

Modi is also expected to hold separate discussions with Foreign Minister Shahid and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. His visit demonstrates the priority that India attaches to the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine, sources told PTI.

To assist the Maldives in its development and revival of its economy, a slew of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) are expected to be signed, including budgetary support for development projects, extending the Line of Credit for projects like water supply and sewerage, high impact community development projects, customs and white shipping, official sources told PTI.

Giving a push to enhance connectivity, India is planning to start a ferry service from Kochi to the Maldives, the sources said. To consolidate people-to-people relations, Modi’s latest emphasis is on cricket diplomacy in the island nation, helping the mission of President Solih to develop cricket, they said.

After Maldives, Modi will travel to Sri Lanka where he will review the progress on a key trilateral MoU which India, Japan and Sri Lanka have signed – the development of the East Container Terminal in Colombo, located just about 3 km away from the China-supported “port city”, which is being built on reclaimed land.

PM Modi had earlier said his visit to the Maldives and later Sri Lanka reflects the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and that it will further cement ties with the two maritime nations.

Modi will go to Sri Lanka on Sunday, said reports.

“I am confident that my visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka will further strengthen our close and cordial ties with our maritime neighbours, in line with our ‘Neighbourhood-First Policy’ and the vision of security and growth for all in the region,” PM Modi said.

The prime minister visited the Maldives in November to attend President Ibrahim Solih’s swearing-in ceremony.

The relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year. However, ties were back on track under Solih’s presidency.

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