NEW DELHI : India on Wednesday underlined its commitment to develop a close security and development cooperation partnership with the Maldives with Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifting an interceptor boat and New Delhi agreeing to undertake several “High Impact Community Development Projects" in the atoll nation.

India also launched its Rupay card in the Maldives on Wednesday through an event presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian president via video conferencing, a statement from India’s ministry of external affairs said.

Since the election of Solih government in Male, India has moved quickly with development projects and other assistance to draw Maldives back into India's fold after several years of seeming estrangement given the closeness of then Maldives president Abdullah Yameen to India's strategic rival China.

In his remarks, Modi spoke of “India’s steadfast commitment to the socio-economic development of Maldives in line with the priorities of the people and Government of Maldives," the statement said. Modi “underscored that the convergence of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and Government of Maldives’s ‘India First’ policies have strengthened bilateral cooperation in all sectors," it said.

The patrol vessel christened “Kaamiyaab" was handed over to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on the occasion, the statement said. “The brand-new vessel will be manned by 8 MNDF personnel trained in India and will be a valuable asset for Maldives in enhancing its maritime security, fostering its blue economy and safeguarding its tourism industry," it said.

Modi and Solih also witnessed the exchange of agreements for three grant projects – ie neighbourhood fish plants – to be set up in the southernmost Maldivian atoll of Addu, the statement said. “Mindful of the geographic spread of Maldives and the development needs of its people, these High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) will be implemented by the Addu City Council in Maldives. These projects are being implemented under the MoU signed during (former foreign minister) Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Maldives in 2019 and will help support livelihoods of the island communities in the Addu," the statement said.

The launch of the Rupay card – India’s alternative the American Mastercard, Visa and American Express -- was aimed at helping Indian tourists whose arrivals in the atoll nation had risen significantly. India was now the second largest source of all tourist arrivals in the Maldives up from the fifth position some years ago. “The launch of the Global RuPay Card in Maldives through the Bank of Maldives will pave the way for higher tourist arrivals from India and, eventually, stronger people-to-people contacts between the two countries," the statement said.

India had recently donated 2,500 LED streetlights that had been installed in Male and will help save 80% energy, the statement added.

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