India pledges $100 million to Maldives, ink two pacts

December 24th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) India Wednesday pledged $100 million credit to the Maldives by signing a pact that will enable the island nation to invigorate and diversify its tourism-centric economy. The two countries also signed an air services agreement that will spur connectivity between them and fuel economic and trade relations.

The pacts were signed after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Maldivian president Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, who is currently on his maiden trip to India after being sworn in as president over a month ago.

The Maldivian president, who began his four-day visit Tuesday, conveyed his country’s sympathies and solidarity to the Indian prime minister for the horrific terror attack in Mumbai a month ago.

The two leaders also discussed the agenda for the next summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which the Maldives will be hosting next year. Terrorism in the region is expected to be the focus of the 16th SAARC summit, which will be held in Male. The Maldives is an Indian Ocean atoll nation made up of nearly 1,200 islands.

Nasheed, 41, also met ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Nasheed, a formal political prisoner who dislodged Asia’s longest-serving ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the country’s first multi-party elections in October, has become a folk hero of sorts in the Maldives. He is no stranger to India and has come here many a time as a pro-democracy activist.

Hours after landing in New Delhi Tuesday, Nasheed addressed a gathering of Indian business leaders and invited them to pick up stakes in the Maldives government-owned industries in the areas of electricity, construction, water, sanitation, transport and fisheries.

He also sought India’s partnership in the infrastructure sector, including building airports, and underlined closer cooperation between the two countries in fields of tourism, HRD, education, healthcare and hotel sectors.

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