Defence Minister Rajnath Singh identified sustainable exploitation of resources and climate change as the most important common challenges faced by the Indian Ocean Region
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday handed over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft to the Maldives and called for boosting collaboration among like-minded nations to address common challenges facing the Indian Ocean, a region that has witnessed increasing Chinese assertiveness.
On the second day of his visit to the island nation, Singh also held talks with Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on further expansion of defence ties and assured him of India's continued support to the country.
After handing over the two platforms to the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) as India's "gift" at a ceremony in Male, the defence minister described the relationship between the two countries as "truly special" and said it has evolved as a model for the entire region to follow.
Outlining India's policy to engage with friendly nations, he said New Delhi wishes to "create symbiotic relationships where it can create a win-win situation for all and that it offers defence partnership while being accommodative of the national priorities of the countries".
"The Indian Ocean is our shared space. The primary responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in the region rests with those who live in the region. Peace and security of a region are best secured with cooperation and collaboration of the regional players," Singh said.
The defence minister arrived in the Maldives on a three-day visit on Monday.
On Singh's meeting with Solih, the defence ministry in Delhi said the Maldivian President expressed gratitude for India's continued aid and support to the country in various sectors, stating that it is a testament to New Delhi's special regard for it.
In his remarks, Singh also said India's commitment to support the Maldives will only get stronger with time and noted that the handing over of the two 'Made in India' platforms to the MNDF is a symbol of the shared commitment of the two countries towards peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region.
"The India-Maldives relationship is truly special. Our relationship has withstood the test of time and we have always supported each-other in the hours of need," Singh said. The fast patrol vessel, capable of coastal and offshore surveillance at high speeds, was commissioned as MNDF Coast Guard ship Huravee.
"There is a need for India, Maldives and other like-minded nations of the region to enhance our cooperation, towards addressing the common challenges of the Indian Ocean Region," Singh said.
"We must, therefore, ensure a collaborative effort, towards ensuring that the maritime expanse of the Indian Ocean is peaceful and the maritime resources therein are optimally harnessed, for ensuring regional prosperity," he added.
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.
The defence minister said India has significantly enhanced its defence capabilities that has enabled it to further support the capacity building initiatives of its partner countries.
"We produce world-class equipment to meet not only our own needs, but also for exports. India offers an enhanced defence partnership to friendly foreign countries, that is accommodative of their national priorities and capacities," Singh said.
"We wish to create symbiotic relationships where we can learn from each other, grow together and create a win-win situation for all. India's commitment to support the Maldives will only get stronger with time," he said.
On India's strong defence cooperation with the Maldives, Singh asserted that the ties emanate from the twin policies of 'Neighbourhood First' and 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region).
Singh identified sustainable exploitation of resources and climate change as the most important common challenges faced by the Indian Ocean Region.
He called for collaborative efforts towards ensuring that the maritime expanse of the Indian Ocean is peaceful and the resources are optimally harnessed for regional prosperity.
Ahead of the handing over ceremony, Singh called on Maldivian President Solih.
"Excellent meeting with HEP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the President's Office in Male. We discussed a wide range of issues to further strengthen the relations between India and Maldives," Singh tweeted.
In the meeting, Solih conveyed the Maldives' commitment towards strengthening the relationship with India, according to the defence ministry.
In a tweet, the Maldivian President's Office said the MNDF's maritime defence and security capabilities will be significantly improved by the Coast Guard ship.
"These 'Made in India' vessels will greatly enhance MNDF Coast Guard's ability for off-shore/coastal surveillance & help tackle issues of smuggling, human and drug trafficking, terrorism and violent extremism. It is a reflection of India's commitment to enhance capabilities of MNDF," the Indian High Commission in Male tweeted.
Hours after arriving in the island nation on Monday, Singh held extensive talks with his Maldivian counterpart Mariya Didi and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in Male with a focus on expanding the bilateral strategic ties.
It is Singh's first visit to the Maldives as the defence minister.