Rajnath to hand over patrol vessel, landing craft to Maldives as India’s gift

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will hand over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft to the Maldives as India’s “gift” during his visit to the island nation from May 1 to 3.

The defence ministry said this on Sunday, noting that Singh’s visit to the Maldives will be an “important landmark” in building “strong bonds” of friendship between the two countries.

The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean region and the overall bilateral ties, including in the areas of defence and security, have been on an upward trajectory in the last few years.

India’s decision to provide the military platforms to the Maldives came amid China’s persistent efforts to expand its overall influence in the region.

During his visit, Singh is scheduled to call on Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and hold talks with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Defence Minister Mariya Didi.

“In tune with India’s commitment to capacity building of friendly countries and partners in the region, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will gift one fast patrol vessel ship and a landing craft to the Maldives National Defence Forces,” the ministry said in a statement.

Singh is also set to take stock of the implementation of various India-assisted projects in the Maldives and will interact with the Indian diaspora.

“India and the Maldives are working closely to effectively address shared challenges, including maritime security, terrorism, radicalisation, piracy, trafficking, organised crime and natural disasters,” the ministry said.

“India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) along with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy as well as Maldives’ ‘India First’ policy seek to work together to jointly develop the capabilities within the Indian Ocean region,” it added.

On Singh’s talks with the Maldivian defence and foreign ministers, it said the entire gamut of defence relations between the two countries will be reviewed.

The Maldives is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s Neighbourhood First policy.

In August last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Solih kick-started the India-funded Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation.

Under the project, a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect Maldivian capital Male with the adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.

Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane visited the Maldives last month and held talks with his Maldivian counterpart, Major General Abdulla Shamaal.