India, Maldives Ink Pact for Mutual Recognition of Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates

The health ministries of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for the reciprocal recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates that the ministers said will contribute to easier travel between the two countries.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar being received by Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on his arrival at Male airport on Saturday. (ANI PHOTO.)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar being received by Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on his arrival at Male airport on Saturday. (ANI PHOTO.)

India and the Maldives on Saturday signed agreements for the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates and for linking their national knowledge networks for the benefit of students even as the two sides pledged to step up cooperation in defence and security.

The agreements were signed on the first day of external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s two-day visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago. Jaishankar met his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid in Addu city and reviewed the bilateral development partnership and cooperation in areas ranging from security to tourism.

The health ministries of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for the reciprocal recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates that the ministers said will contribute to easier travel between the two countries.

Following the signing of an agreement between the Maldives’ Higher Education Network and India’s National Knowledge Network, the ministers formally launched the connectivity between the two institutions to benefit students and professionals.

Jaishankar said in his remarks at a joint media interaction with Shahid late on Saturday that bilateral cooperation has withstood the pandemic, and India had provided aid worth more than $2.6 billion to the Maldives, including grants, concessional loans, budgetary support and training assistance. The development partnership, he noted, is “very transparent and driven by Maldivian needs and priorities”.

In the field of defence and security, Jaishankar noted that a coastal radar system built with Indian assistance will be formally handed over to the Maldives on Sunday.

“Our time-tested relationship is today poised for a real quantum jump...We are partners in development, we are promoting peace and security, and our relationship today, in many ways, serves as a model for the region,” Jaishankar said.

Shahid said India continues to be one of the top foreign policy priorities of the government of President Ibrahim Solih. The Maldives welcomes India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy under which the country has “gained immense socio-economic benefits”, and at the same time, it is committed to its “India First” policy, he added.

He called for expediting projects under a $50-million line of credit in the defence sector and a $40-million line of credit for sports infrastructure. “I affirm the Maldives’ continued commitment to foster dialogue and cooperation in the defence sector,” he said.

Jaishankar is visiting the Maldives and Sri Lanka during March 26-30 to hold bilateral meetings and participate in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meeting in Colombo.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually join the fifth BIMSTEC Summit being hosted by Sri Lanka on March 30.

Jaishankar is scheduled to meet President Ibrahim Solih. Several projects to be inaugurated during the visit will contribute to the socio-economic development of the Maldives and enhance the country’s security, the external affairs ministry added.

Jaishankar will then visit Sri Lanka during March 28-30 at the invitation of his counterpart GL Peiris. The visit is preceded by trips to India by Sri Lanka’s finance minister Basil Rajapaksa last December and earlier this month and Peiris in February.

“The bilateral meetings and interactions which [Jaishankar] will have in Sri Lanka highlight the priority that Sri Lanka occupies for India,” the ministry said.

While in Sri Lanka, Jaishankar will also participate in the BIMSTEC ministerial meeting in Colombo on March 29.

The Maldives and Sri Lanka are India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupy a special place in the vision of “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the “Neighbourhood First” policy. Jaishankar’s visit to both countries reflects the importance that India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the ministry said.

To prepare for the BIMSTEC Summit, meetings of senior officials and the foreign ministers will be held on March 28 and March 29, respectively.

Challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties faced by BIMSTEC members within the international system impart “greater urgency to the goal of taking BIMSTEC technical and economic cooperation to the next level”, the external affairs ministry said.

This is expected to be the main subject of deliberations at the BIMSTEC Summit. The leaders are also expected to discuss the establishment of basic institutional structures and mechanisms for the group.

Phiên bản di động