Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi, Honored Member of the Most Honorable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzudin, Distinguished members of the Indian delegation, Honourable Ministers, distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a proud day for the Maldives. It is a happy day for Maldivians. We are delighted today, to receive Your Excellency on your first visit abroad following your landslide victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Fazna and I recall with great fondness and deep appreciation, our visit to India in December last year and the generous hospitality and friendship extended to us by Your Excellency during our visit.
Mr Prime Minister, this is the second time you have visited our country, within a span of six months. Maldivians were enthused to see you at my swearing in ceremony last November. And here you are, just six months after that, on your first official visit to the Maldives.
Mr Prime Minister,
As we sit here today in this beautiful island, surrounded by the waters of the Indian Ocean, I am reminded of its woven interconnectedness with the Indian sub-continent. The great Himalayas in the northern fringe of the Indian sub-continent, and the vast Indian Ocean in the south, play a vital role in balancing our environment, climate and temperatures.
The Ganges that sustains life in the Indian sub-continent has done so, for millennia, similar to how the Indian Ocean has sustained Maldivians for a long line of generations. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described the Ganges River as a reminder of the past that flows to the present and the future. Quite similarly, we see the Indian Ocean as a reminder of our distant forefathers who sought sustenance from this Ocean our two countries share, and the journeys they made across it, selling our wares, seeking friends and making connections.
This year, Maldives and India mark 54 years of friendship and good relations. But surely this number represents only a fraction of the time we have been friendly nations – brotherly nations. Our relations since antiquity remains unhindered by time. Patterns of commerce and trade, language, exchanges in culture, and the trends of movement between the peoples of our countries remain a testament to this relationship.
Today, India remains one of our largest partners in trade. Cooperation with India spans over several fields, and occurs at multiple levels. Thousands of Maldivians travel to India for purposes ranging from medicine, tourism to education. We are also happy to host a large community of Indians who are making valuable contributions to the socio-economic development of our country. Their services in a wide range of fields have enhance people-to-people contact between our two countries. Maldivians are also particularly keen on Indian culture and entertainment, an exemplar to the inspiration provided by India to the South Asian sub-continent.
Many here would know, that the path towards democracy in the Maldives has been full of complexities. We are beginning to close several chapters from our past that does not serve the best interest for the people of my country. A bright dawn to a new future is arriving where basic rights of citizens will not be stifled, the press will remain free and dissenting voices not silenced. India serves as a great model for the path of democracy that we strive to take. As the largest democracy in the world India is a beacon of hope for all people in this region.
Mr Prime Minister,
My Government and I, acknowledge with deep appreciation the service, help and support extended so generously by the Government and people of India to the people of Maldives. Today, we have yet again, opened up several important new avenues of cooperation – crucial milestones in our bilateral relationship. Even more importantly, we have reaffirmed our friendship and our partnership – signifying that more similarities bind us, than the differences that divide us.
Your Excellency, on behalf of the people of Maldives, I would like to once again congratulate you on your assumption of a second term in office. I thank you and your Government for being a constant friend, and a reliable partner of the Maldives. Fazna and I wish you and the people of India every success and much happiness in the days ahead.