Current Affairs 18 March 2019 Digest 3: India, Maldives sign three agreements, IIT, IISc collaborate on Climate Change Initiative

Story 1- India, Maldives sign three agreements

India and Maldives signed three agreements on visa facilitation for diplomatic and official passport holders, development cooperation and renewable energy after extensive talks between Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid during the former’s visit to the tropical island nation from March 17-18, 2019.

India’s External Affairs Minister was accompanied by a delegation of senior government officers. During the meeting, both the foreign ministers recalled the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the swearing-in ceremony of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in November 2018, as well as the historic state visit of President Solih to India in December 2018. These visits have set the framework for strengthening and deepening of the relationship between the Maldives and India.

Memorandums of Understanding

The following are the three agreements:

1. Agreement on exemption from visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and official passports.

2. Memorandum of Understanding regarding Indian grant assistance for implementation of high impact community development projects through local bodies.

3. Memorandum of Understanding on collaboration in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Joint Statement: Key Highlights

India-First Policy

Maldives’ Foreign Minister Shahid reiterated his government’s "India-First Policy” and said that they look forward to working closely with the Indian government on all issues. He also reiterated that Maldives would remain sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns.

The Indian External Affairs Minister reiterated that India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with Maldives, which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding, and sensitivity. She also reiterated that India, in line with its neighbourhood-first policy, stands ready to fully support Maldives in its socio-economic development

Socio-Economic Relations

The Maldives’ Foreign Minister noted India’s key role in the socio-economic development of the island nation and thanked the Indian government for its support towards the renovation of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, which stands as an enduring symbol of friendship between the two countries.

The Maldivian side also appreciated India for gifting LED bulbs and LED street lights for Malé City. In response, Swaraj announced India’s continued support for the further development of the health sector in the nation through the provision of equipment and capacity building programmes.

Sports

The Maldivian side, while discussing cooperation in the field of youth and sports, requested the Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium. The Indian side agreed to positively consider the request.

Finance Sector

Indian EAM announced the decision of the Indian government to renew the quota for essential commodities, as requested by the Government of Maldives, including river sand and stone aggregate, for a period of 3 years, starting from April 1, 2019.

Welcoming the increase in trade volume over the past few years, both the Foreign Ministers agreed to improve connectivity as a means to promote the exchange of goods and services, culture and people. They also agreed on the need to boost private sector involvement and to hold the Maldives-India Business Forum in 2019.

Cultural Cooperation

The two Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the agreement on visa facilitation between the two nations. The ministers also expressed their commitment to address the issues related to the welfare of their respective communities residing in both countries, including the speedy provision of consular services.

Maldives’ foreign minister also expressed appreciation for India’s continued support towards the development of human resources, including capacity building programmes and provision of training and scholarship opportunities. He, in fact, highlighted the 1000 additional slots over the next five years for training and capacity building, which were announced during the state visit of President Solih to India.

The Indian side appreciated the decision of the Maldivian side to provide land in Hulhumalé for the Indian Embassy.

Peace and Security

Both the foreign ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region and to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security.

The Maldives’s minister expressed the commitment of the nation to support all efforts to combat terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, and crimes such as piracy, organised crime, narcotic drugs and human trafficking.

Climate Change

Highlighting the importance of combating the impacts of climate change, especially detrimental to developing countries, including Small Island Developing States, the two ministers agreed on the need to strengthen the global response to climate change, through multilateral forums including the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

Swaraj appreciated Maldives for its intention to submit the instrument of ratification for the framework agreement for establishing the International Solar Alliance.

Global Challenges

The two foreign ministers reiterated the importance of an effective multilateral system as a key factor in tackling global challenges and agreed on the need to pursue reform of the main UN bodies, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

The Maldivian side expressed its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldivian side also reiterated support for India’s candidature for non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.

Story 2- IIT, IISc collaborate on Climate Change Initiative

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Guwahati and Mandi have collaborated with the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru to develop a ‘Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region Using a Common Framework.’

The assessment exercise is being undertaken to cover all the 12 Indian Himalayan region (IHR) states using a common framework.

Objective

The various research projects undertaken by IIT Mandi aim to address the vulnerable, hazard and extreme events in the Indian Himalayan Region.

Significance

The comparable vulnerability assessments will be useful for government officials, implementers, decision makers, funding agencies and development experts.

The 12 states to be covered under the framework include Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, the hilly districts of West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir.

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