India will always be a reliable security partner for the Maldives, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said here on Sunday, as New Delhi signed a $50 million defence Line of Credit agreement with the island nation to facilitate capability building in the maritime domain.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar began his two-day trip to Maldives Saturday as India seeks to expand its Indo-Pacific strategic partnership within its friendly neighbours in an effort to strengthen maritime cooperation.
“Cordial meeting with Defence Minister @MariyaDidi . Useful exchange on our defence cooperation. India will always be a reliable security partner for the Maldives,” he tweeted.
“Glad to sign with Defence Minister @MariyaDidi the UTF Harbour Project agreement. Will strengthen Maldivian Coast Guard capability and facilitate regional HADR efforts. Partners in development, partners in security,” he said.
India has been “carefully and cautiously” nurturing its bilateral relationship ever since the Solih government came to power in 2018, overthrowing the former Abdulla Yameen regime, under whom the island nation gathered a Chinese debt to the tune of $2 billion, official sources told ThePrint.
Jaishankar’s visit comes two months after India, Maldives and Sri Lanka held the 4th trilateral meeting on Maritime and Security Cooperation in which New Delhi was represented by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The meeting was held in Colombo.
The Solih government has stood firm in its commitment to an ‘India First’ policy, bringing the two countries closer not just economically, but also strategically.
India sees Maldives as a key maritime neighbour and has been seeking to forge deeper ties with the country to bolster New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific initiative.
Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla had visited Male in November 2020, right after the visit of former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo there, in an effort to bring the Solih government closer to the Indo-Pacific construct, thereby lessening Chinese influence in the island nation.