India will be at Your Side, PM Tells Maldives

Male, Nov 12 (IANS): In the first address by a foreign leader to the Maldivian parliament, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday offered India's support to the democratic transformation of the Indian Ocean and stressed on jointly combating terror and piracy in the region.

"India will be at your side in your transition to a fully functioning democracy," Manmohan Singh told assembled legislators in the People's Majlis on the last day of his four-day visit to the country. "We will assist the Majlis by way of training, formulation of rules and regulations and any other assistance that you may desire," the prime minister said while underlining time-tested ties between the two neighbours that harks back to the Indus Valley civilization.

This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister since Atal Bihari Vajpayee came here in 2002.

Lauding Maldives for its democratic transformation, Manmohan Singh, who is visiting the Indian Ocean atoll nation of coral-blue 1,190 islands for the first time, said he was "overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty and serenity of this nation of islands."

"You are a truly blessed people to be living in such harmony with mother nature," said Manmohan Singh, and praised the Maldives for its culture of tolerance and devotion "to the noble religion of Islam."

Manmohan Singh also underlined that India will work with the Maldives to work towards a cooperative security framework in the Indian Ocean region to combat evils of fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism and piracy.

Alluding to the historic Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development he signed with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed in the morning, Manmohan Singh said it has opened "new frontiers for cooperation" that will have "a tangible effect on the lives of common citizens."

Referring to a fresh line of credit of $100 million he announced earlier in the day, Manmohan Singh underlined India's support for a host of capacity building institutions.

Manmohan Singh underlined India's solidarity with Maldives in combating global warming, an issue of existential concern to the world's lowest-lying country that faces extinction in case global temperatures rise by one or two degrees.

"We will help Maldives to achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral. We will help build your capacities through sharing of energy efficiency technologies," he said.

"India will be a constructive participant in the global climate change negotiations based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibility," he said.


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