India assures support to Maldives' reform process

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (UNI) India today assured Maldives of unstinted support to the constitutional and political reform process in the island nation and expressed commitment to jointly counter extremism and fundamentalism in the region.

President Pratibha Patil, who hosted a banquet for visiting Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom here tonight, said cooperation between the two countries had grown steadily given the fresh challenges, especially in maritime security.

''We assure you of India's support...I would reiterate that India is committed to a relationship of abiding friendship with Maldives, founded on mutual trust, mutual respect and goodwill. We wish the Maldives well and we will continue to stand by you,'' she said.

Expressing concern at increasing extremism and fundamentalism in the region, Mrs Patil said the attempt on his life and the recent bomb blasts in Male reinforced the belief that terrorism is unacceptable. India and the Maldives would tackle this phenomenon jointly and resolutely, she asserted.

The Maldivian President who arrived here on Wednesday on a week-long visit, had official engagements earlier during the day today. He was here primarily to attend the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit on Thursday.

Earlier during the day, the Maldivian President held official-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Prime Minister also welcomed the reform process in the Maldives.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee called on him.

The two countries also signed an agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology for identification of joint opportunities and projects and cooperation through exchanges of experts and information, workshops, training and joint projects.

They agreed to conclude a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male, established earlier in 1995 with Indian assistance.

It was also agreed to set up an India-Maldives Foundation.

UNI RB MSJ RAI224

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