Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that India will continue to support the Maldives in mitigating the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting that the “special friendship” between both the nations “will always remain as deep as the waters of the Indian Ocean”.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, PM Modi tweeted, “Thank you, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih! India will continue to support the Maldives in mitigating the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our special friendship is, and will always remain, as deep as the waters of the Indian Ocean.”

PM Modi was responding to Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s tweet thanking him for India’s financial assistance to the island country. “A landmark moment in Maldives-India cooperation today as we receive Indian assistance of USD250 million as budget support and USD500 million for the Greater Mal? Connectivity Project. I thank PM Narendra Modi and the Indian people for their generosity and friendship,” Solih tweeted.

India on Thursday announced its support for the largest infrastructure project of Maldives–the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) till date. India will provide funding of $500 million for the project which that will increase connectivity between the country. The $500 financial package consists of a grant of $100 million and a new Line of Credit (LOC) of $400 million.

The announcement came after virtual meet between External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid. The project was a key election promise of the ruling MDP Maldivian Democratic Party and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had personally sought India’s assistance for the project. 

The project will connect capital Male with Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifalhu via bridges and causeways of the total length of 6.695 kilometres. Out of the total length, the bridge-section will be 2.08 km, 780m causeway section and 3.87 km embankment and causeway section. 

Villingili is near Capital Male, Thilafushi is an artificial island created as a municipal landfill and a new industrial zone and Gulhifalhu will be furthered developed into industrial location.

Indian readout of the meet said, “Once completed, this landmark project will streamline connectivity between the four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in the Male region.”

As of now 1.39 km Maldives-China friendship bridge connecting Male with Hulhule and Hulhumale to its east has been the most visible infra-project of the country but the new mega Indian financed projected will dwarf it once completed.

In Gulhifahu which is part of Greater Male Connectivity Project, a port is being developed under India’s LoC worth $800 million. Under Indian Line of Credit, several projects are already in construction including water supply and sewerage systems on 34 Island, Hanimadhoo International Airport redevelopment, construction of international cricket stadium in Hulhumale, a cancer hospital in Hulhumale spanning the country’s geographical from the northernmost to the southernmost islands of Maldives.

Other than internal connectivity, plans to connect to India-Maldives are also underway. The cargo ferry service between Cochin to Kulhudhufushi-Male will be operationalised within the next few months. Ministry of External Affairs in its release said, “direct cargo ferry service will commence shortly”.

Kulhudhuffushi known as “Heart of the North” is the capital of Haa Dhaalu Atoll and near to Kerala. The ferry service was announced in 2019 during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the country. 

India has also renewed quotas for supply of essential commodities to the Maldives for the year 2020-21. The commodities include food items like potatoes, onions, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, dal and eggs as well as river sand and stone aggregates. The quotas assure food security and the supply of essential construction items in the Maldives.

During COVID-19 pandemic,  India had made sure supply lines for essential food and construction materials continue to the Maldives. It also gifted 580 tons of essential food items through Mission SAGAR.

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