Male | India and the Maldives on Wednesday reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability and security in the Indian Ocean as they underscored the significance of respecting international law and rules-based international order, amid China's growing influence in the strategically vital region.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who arrived here on Monday on the invitation of his Maldivian counterpart Mariya Didi, also jointly laid the foundation stone for the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Ekatha harbour in Male in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of SAGAR or Security And Growth for All in the Region.
The development of the Coastguard Harbour and repair facility at Sifavaru is one of the biggest grant-in-aid projects of India.
During his visit, Singh and Didi held bilateral talks to enhance defence cooperation and strengthen the longstanding partnership between India and Maldives.
"They discussed a wide range of regional and global security issues of mutual concern, and agreed to deepen their cooperation in the defence and security domains," said a joint press communique issued at the end of Singh's visit to Maldives.
"Both Ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability & security in the region and recognised the need to work together to address common security challenges. They underscored the importance of respecting international law & rules-based international order and expressed their commitment to upholding these principles," it added.
The Maldivian defence minister described Singh's visit as "a major milestone in the bilateral defence cooperation engagements" between the two countries.
"His visit epitomizes the strong sisterly bond that exist between our two nations from time immemorial," she said and thanked Singh for the reception hosted by him on board INS Airavat.
"The reception celebrated the rich cultural heritage & friendship that exists between India and Maldives. The event was a testament to the strong bonds of cooperation & mutual respect fostered over years," she said.
The ministers welcomed the progress made in ongoing defence cooperation between the two neighbours, including joint exercises and exchanges of visits by military officials. They also noted the importance of sharing best practices and expertise in areas such as counter terrorism, disaster management, cyber security and maritime security.
The ministers agreed to explore additional avenues for cooperation, including in the areas of defence trade, capacity building and joint exercises. They also discussed the need to promote people-to-people contacts and exchanges between the armed forces of both countries.
They attended a ceremony for the commissioning of the replacement ship for Huravee.
Prime Minister Modi had announced the provision of the replacement ship for the aging Huravee, during Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih's recent visit to India.
Singh also gifted MNDF an additional Landing Craft. The handing over of these vessels are in line with India's SAGAR vision that seeks to work together with and jointly develop the capabilities of friends and partners for a safe, secure, prosperous and stable Indian Ocean Region.
India's gift of the two platforms to one of its strategically key maritime neighbours came amid China's persistent efforts to enhance its strategic influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
"Both Parties reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening the partnership between their countries, and expressed common sentiments that they looked forward to continuing the dialogue and cooperation in the future," the joint communique said.
Singh's visit renewed the sense of commitment of the two friendly neighbours to enhance the security and prosperity of their respective countries and the region, it added.
During his visit, Singh also paid a courtesy call on President Solih and met Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
It was Singh's first visit to the Maldives as the defence minister.