He expressed pride in India's cooperation with Maldives during Covid-19

India-Maldives partnership in the health sector has a long tradition, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Sunday.

He was speaking at the joint inauguration of the Vilunu Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre in Addu City, Maldives in the presence of Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid and Maldivian Health Minister Ahmed Naseem.

The Centre – funded jointly by India and the Maldivian Government – is the first of the 20 High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) to be completed. "It is heartening to know that it was completed within one year, despite the logistical challenges of the Covid pandemic," Jaishankar noted.

India and the Maldives are currently implementing 20 such projects in the Maldives in diverse areas of health, education, fisheries, tourism, sports, gender empowerment and culture. 9 of these are located in Addu, including 5 eco-tourism zones.

EAM Jaishankar announced that the Government of India will support seven more High Impact Community Development Projects, including the establishment of a Mental Health Unit in Addu Hospital. "I look forward to the rapid execution of all these projects in Addu and obviously elsewhere in the Maldives," he said.

Referring to the Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre, Jaishankar said that while drug trafficking is a crime and obviously deserves zero tolerance, drug addiction is a health and social issue that requires infrastructure, science, but most of all understanding and compassion to treat.

"The process of de-addiction and rehabilitation requires infrastructure and trained professionals. I am glad to hear that this centre is now functional with 24 trained staff in place, and will start in-house rehab processes next week for 20 patients," he pointed out.

India-Maldives partnership in the health sector– of which this centre is one component – has a long tradition, EAM Jaishankar highlighted.

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male has been a linchpin of Maldives’ tertiary healthcare for decades, he said.

"Maldivian doctors and specialists receive training in Indian institutions. During the pandemic, we were able to create an air corridor for thousands of Maldivians seeking advanced healthcare in India," he said.

According to Jaishankar, Sunday's gathering was also a celebration of Maldives' success in the fight against COVID-19. "I congratulate President Solih, his Government and the people of Maldives for the resilience you have shown. I am proud of our cooperation with the Maldives in this difficult journey through the last two years," he said.

"Many of the projects that I have spoken about, the High Impact Community Development Projects are conceptualized and implemented the world over by the Local and City Councils," India's External Affairs Minister noted.

"This is in fact what defines, what really sets apart these projects. And what it does because it has local ownership and local buy in, it ensures timely implementation because the councils have a direct stake in their success," he added.