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China allusion in message to Maldives : India won't make countries indebted for generations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday tried to allay any Maldivian fears about a “big brother” attitude from New Delhi, insisting the Indian growth story sought to serve as a tide that lifts its neighbours.

“India’s development is aimed at strengthening others, not weakening them. Neither do we want to make countries so dependent on us that it leaves them indebted to India for generations,” Modi told the Majlis, the Maldives’ unicameral legislature.

This seemed an allusion to China’s strategy of gaining influence in South Asia by using its deep pockets to offer the region’s countries attractive loans, eventually leaving them in debt for decades.

“We are neighbours, no one is big or small, weak or strong in this friendship,” Modi underlined.

Modi, who had mocked the Opposition alliance in India as a “mahamilavat”(great adulteration), toasted the rainbow coalition of Maldivian Opposition parties that had come together under current President Ibrahim Solih to oust Abdulla Yameen’s authoritarian regime last year. He called it a symbol of their commitment to democracy.

Solih awarded Modi the atoll nation’s highest honour for foreign dignitaries, the Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen.

Modi’s trip has been given the status of a state visit, signalling the importance Male attaches to its relationship with New Delhi. Solih had picked India for his first overseas tour after taking charge last November, and Modi has now returned the compliment.

This is the third engagement between the two. However, during Modi’s first term, the Maldives was the only country in the region that he had not toured for a bilateral engagement, having had to cancel a planned visit because of political uncertainty in Male.

On Saturday, the two countries agreed to start a regular passenger-cum-cargo ferry service between Kochi in Kerala and Kulhudhuffushi and Male in the Maldives.

New Delhi has offered to have the Archaeological Survey of India carry out the restoration of the Hukuru Miskiy (Friday Mosque), an ornate mosque in Male of 1658 vintage, built with coral boulders.

India has agreed to build a stadium and train the Maldivian national cricket team.

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