New Delhi, 17 April. India and Maldives have decided to develop “a privileged partnership” between the two countries.
Addressing a joint press conference with the Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmad Shaheed in Male a short while before departing for home at the end of his two-day visit to the Island country yesterday, the Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that India would like “to maintain and consolidate its close links and trust with Maldives and to be of assistance, wherever and whenever we can, with our friends”.
Describing Maldives as an important member and partner of the Indian Ocean Region,Mukherjee said that India’s mutually beneficial relationship with the Republic of Maldives will not only secure its vital interests in the region, but also reinvigorate our ties with a key member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). He reiterated New Delhi’s desire to strengthen relations with Maldives “on the basis of equality and respect so as to elevate them to an ever high level”.
Earlier, in the day, India handed over the INS Tillanchang to the Maldives National Security Service Coast Guard at an impressive ceremony held in the port city of Male – the capital of Maldives. With a gentle breeze blowing from the Indian Ocean, on an otherwise sultry morning, the Indian ensign was hauled down for the last time from INS Tillanchang. The Indian crew disembarked from the ship and the Maldivian crew took charge.
The Maldivian National flag was hauled up and the ship was rechristened “Huravee” after a Maldivian hero and a freedom fighter. A galaxy of dignitaries of Maldives including the President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Minister of Defence and National Security Mr Ismail Shaifeeu, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmad Shaheed attend the ceremony.
The Indian side was led by the Defence Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee. Others who attended the function included the Indian High Commissioner Shri AK Pande, Chairman and Managing Director of Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Rear Admiral TS Ganeshan, senior officials from the Ministry of Defence and Indian Navy. Speaking on the occasion Shri Mukherjee described the event as a “truly landmark and historic one” and announced that the Indian Navy will assist the National Security Service in the maintenance and up keep of this patrol craft during her lifetime.
Named after one of the islands of the Andaman and Nicobar chain, the INS Tillanchang, built by Defence Public Sector Undertaking, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata was inducted into the Indian Navy five years ago. The 260 tonne Trinkat class fast attack craft INS Tillanchang is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation aids, communication and GMDSS Systems, which facilitate her role-worthiness and effectiveness in operational missions, air operations, safe navigation and survival at sea. The main armament is the indigenous 30 mm gun, manufactured by Ordnance factory Medak. Two high speed boats have been provided onboard for facilitating rapid interception in shallow waters and lifesaving tasks. Powered by MTU engines of German make it has a maximum speeds of 28 knots and is capable of extended deployment up to 2000 nautical miles. The ship is also capable of mobilizing a naval Quick Reaction Team of up to 35 men at short notice.
The ship will primarily be used for patrolling, policing and search and rescue missions in the vast areas of sea around Maldivian chain of islands, considerably enhancing their capability against illegal poaching and drug trafficking.
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister of Defence and National Security of Maldives Mr. Ismail Shaifeeu lauded the role of Indian government in dispatching ships with relief supplies with “promptness and alacrity” to provide immediate succour to the affected people in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami in December 2004. ‘The role of the Indian Government in launching Operation Cactus in December 1988 was a defining moment in the relationship between the two countries and a landmark event in the history of their nation’, he said.
Later in the day, Mukherjee called on the President of Maldives and held high level interactions with the Defence and Foreign Minister of Maldives.