Male, Nov 12: Extremism and religious fundamentalism are among the common challenges India and Maldives are faced with, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday as the two countries agreed to adopt a multi-pronged approach to deal with these problems.
In a rare honour given to a visiting dignitary, Singh addressed the “People"s Majlis" (Parliament) in which he said India"s security, like that of the host country, was closely linked to what happens in the Indian Ocean.
Dr. Singh, who was given a standing ovation by Maldivian MPs, is the first visiting head of government to address the multi-party Majlis that was formed after the historic Parliamentary polls in 2009.
“The challenges we face are well known — extremism and religious fundamentalism, piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking to name a few," he said in his address that was received well in the 75-member house in which President Mohammed Nasheed"s Maldivian Democratic Party heads the ruling coalition.
“Our two countries have agreed upon a multi-pronged approach to deal with these problems. To build capacity within Maldives, India will support the construction of a National Police Academy," Singh said.
He told lawmakers India and Maldives have bilaterally entered into arrangements on combating terrorism, drug trafficking, disaster management and coastal security and transfer of sentenced persons. These will strengthen the framework of cooperation on law enforcement and consular matters.
Singh said at the regional level the two countries should enhance their cooperation to increase maritime domain awareness and surveillance.
“We wish to cooperate in the modernisation of your fishing and food processing industry," Singh said.
Emphasising on better connectivity between the two countries, he said officials were engaged in talks to work on a passenger-cum-cargo ferry service between Kochi and Male and to look at the possibility of developing a port north of Male.
“We have encouraged our airlines to increase direct air links between destinations in India and Maldives."
Referring to the threat to Maldives from rising sea levels, he said India will stand as one with Maldives in combating global warming. India will help Maldives achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral.
“We will help build your capacities through sharing of energy efficiency technologies and provide scholarships for students from Maldives in such areas as coastal zone adaptation and management."
Referring to the vastness of the ocean that surrounds the two countries that constituted the extended neighbourhood, the Prime Minister said India would wish to work with Maldives and other like-minded countries to ensure peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region.
“We should build upon the commonalities and reinvigorate the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
Singh said the “People"s Majlis" is a testimony to the strong faith the people of Maldives have shown in democracy. “As a fellow democracy we take delight in your achievements."
Referring to the adoption of the new Constitution in 2008 and the free and fair Presidential elections and the multi-party Parliamentary polls in 2009, he said Maldives has taken the reforms necessary for the independent functioning of the judiciary and other vital organs of the state.
“India will be at your side in transition to a fully functioning democracy. We will assist the Majlis by way of training, formulation of rules and regulations and any other assistance that you may desire," Singh said.