Maldives will be the first South Asian country to have an "air bubble" with India to facilitate movement of people from both sides for employment, tourism and medical emergencies. The country will also receive a financial assistance of 500 million dollars for the largest infrastructure project in the Indian Ocean island nation, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Air bubbles or travel corridors are systems established between two countries that perceive each other to be safe and allow carriers of both the countries to fly passengers either way without any restrictions.
The announcement was made by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar after a meeting with his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid through video conference.
The first flight under the air bubble is expected to commence on August 18.
India has already announced air bubble with countries like the US, Germany, France and Britain
"In keeping with our special ties, Maldives is the first neighboring country with which an air bubble is being operationalised. The air bubble symbolises India's support to shore up tourism arrivals and revenues in the Maldives," the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
Responding to a request from the government of Maldives, Jaishankar announced India's decision to support the implementation of Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP) in the Maldives through a financial package consisting of a grant of USD 100 million and a new Line of Credit of USD 400 million.
He pointed out that this would be the largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives, connecting capital Malé with neighbouring islands -- Villingili, Gulhifahu (where a port is being built under Indian LoC and Thilafushi, a new industrial zone, by constructing a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7km.
Once completed, this landmark project will streamline connectivity between the four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in Malé region.
Fulfilling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement in the Maldivian parliament in June last year, Jaishankar announced the start of a direct cargo ferry service soon between India and the Maldives, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Jaishankar underscored the significance of the ferry service in enhancing bilateral trade and connectivity and in further boosting the economic partnership between the two countries.
The cargo ferry service will enhance sea connectivity and provide predictability in supplies for importers in Maldives and exporters in India, the statement said adding it will also reduce logistics costs and times for traders.