New Delhi: India-Maldives' time-tested relationship is today poised for a quantum jump and New Delhi is strongly committed to further progress of this relationship, said External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar as he held a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid.

External Affair Minister S Jaishankar is in the Maldives for a two-day visit from March 26 to March 27 after he got an invite from his Maldivian counterpart.

"Our time-tested relationship is today poised for a quantum jump. We are touching the lives of our people like we have done never before. We are partners in development, we are promoting peace and security, and our relationship, in many ways, serves as a model for the region," Jaishankar said.

Addressing the media after signing the Agreement for connectivity between the Higher Education Network of the Maldives and the National Knowledge Network of India, Jaishankar stressed, "Foreign Minister, you and I have acknowledged the strides made in the fields of capacity building and training. I am, of course, delighted to join you in the inauguration of the National Knowledge Network (NKN). And, with the signing of the Peering Agreement today, over 1500 Indian institutes and a host of universities and centres of learning from Singapore, Europe and the United States are now connected to the Maldives. The NKN is a real expression of the best of our regional cooperation in the digital and education arenas."

The two countries also signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 certificates where Jaishankar said, "it is a step forward in the same direction and will certainly contribute to easier travel between us."

Jaishankar assured that guided by the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the cooperation between the two countries has actually "witnessed and withstood the arc and anguish of the pandemic together."

Moreover, EAM praised Maldives President Solih, his counterpart and the Government and people of the Maldives for dealing with the adversity of Covid in a very successful and effective manner. "You have vaccinated your population, and your economy has shown resilience and recovery. And I congratulate you for that achievement," he added.

Both the ministers had wide-ranging discussions on the bilateral partnership. They took stock of ongoing projects and initiatives across a very wide range of sectors and looked at socio-economic development, trade and investment, and, tourism.

India is supporting projects in a range of sectors - infrastructure, tourism, fish processing and health. "We will be witnessing the inauguration and launch of some of these projects tomorrow. Work has commenced on Addu Roads projects, as also on the 4000 housing units, the drinking water and sanitation," Jaishankar informed.

EAM stated that the "iconic" Greater Male Connectivity Project holds the potential of transforming the transport landscape of the capital.

"It gives me great pleasure in recognising the progress we have made on this project and we have moved from the level of concept to preliminary works in less than two years, that too during the years of Covid. Geo-technical surveys are ongoing. I hope we can do a ground-breaking in the coming months," he affirmed.

He also noted that the Hanimaadhoo Airport Redevelopment Project, the expansion of facilities of MIFCO, the cricket stadium and the social housing projects have all seen momentum in implementation in the past year.

He said that the DPR of USD 40 million Sports Line of Credit announced in February last year is near completion. Under this LOC, the National Stadium will be renovated and sports infrastructure would be built across the Maldives, he said.

Jaishanker highlighted, "We are already engaged in the development of water and sanitation facilities on 34 islands through LoC financing. Apart from extending basic civic amenities to island communities, the project that is one of the largest climate adaptation measures ongoing in the Maldives at a cost of more than USD 100 million, I think is very noteworthy. We exchanged views on how we take climate change and renewable energy development forward."

Both sides have also had a discussion on regional security and maritime safety issues. During his press address, EAM Jaishankar noted, "I think that the threat of transnational crimes and terrorism and drug trafficking is indeed very serious. In this context, I'm very pleased to see that our capacity building and cooperation and training have expanded in this. I think it is for both of us, strengthens our defence and security,"

He said that both the countries are also signing an MoU for capacity building between the Maldives Police and our National Police Academy. "Tomorrow, we will also be handing over formally, the Coastal Radar System which is already operational and will help in enhancing maritime security," he highlighted.

Jaishankar while speaking about his conversation with the Foreign Minister of Maldives stressed, "You have today brought to my attention today the issue of tuna exports, and I had shared with you that I will bring o the attention of my Trade Minister It is not a matter which had previously gotten our collective attention. But I assure you, when I go back, I will certainly look at it very carefully."

While concluding his speech the External Affairs Minister noted that it is a partnership that delivers for its stakeholders - the citizens of our countries - both in good times and in bad times.

"This is a partnership that tackles common challenges of regional development, which addresses disruptions and disasters. It is a partnership that is a force for stability in the region. And, it is our shared responsibility to nurture, to strengthen it and to take it forward. And I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that we remain very strongly committed to further progress of this relationship and coming to Addu has been a particularly effective way of messaging that," he added.