Terror common challenges for India, Maldives:PM

Male: Extremism and religious fundamentalism are among the common challenges India and Maldives are faced with, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today 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" (Maldivian Parliament) in which he said India`s security, like that of the host country, was closely linked to what happens in the Indian Ocean. 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 knownand common to both-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 should have better exchange of information, more training programmes and work towards a cooperative security framework in the Indian Ocean region," Singh said.

Appreciating the impressive strides made by Maldives ever since its independence in 1965, Singh said as an abiding friend, India would always stand by the country in these efforts. "Our relations are time-tested and I wish to reaffirm that they shall remain so in the future," he said.

The Prime Minister also referred to the bilateral discussions he had with President Nasheed in the morning during which they signed a historic Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development. "This is a blueprint for cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism, transportation, information technology, new and renewable energy, communications and enhancing connectivity by air and sea," he said.

The Prime Minister informed the President of India`s decision to extend a Standby Credit Facility of $ 100 million, which would help the island nation meet its budgetary needs and enable it to import essential commodities. India also extended a Line of Credit of $ 40 million for construction of new houses.

Singh also expressed India`s readiness to work with Maldives` government to train youth in identified areas of skills development and to undertake a major renovation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male as part of the aid programme. Referring to tourism and hospital sectors, the largest revenue earners in Maldives, Singh said the two countries have decided to forge closer economic links through banking and financial institutions.