India signs umbrella pact with Maldives

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Amid China's increased foray in the Indian Ocean island, India on Saturday inked an umbrella agreement with the Maldives to intensify cooperation in diverse areas, including trade and counter-terrorism, and unveiled a fresh $100 million line of credit for development of this picturesque atoll nation.

The two sides signed six pacts, including two on combating terrorism and transfer of sentenced persons.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held wide-ranging talks with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed for over an hour and discussed issues ranging from trade and development to combating terror and climate change.

After the talks, the two leaders inked a 'historic' Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development which promises to open new frontiers of cooperation.

The agreement seeks to accelerate cooperation across an entire spectrum ranging from trade and investment, food security, fisheries development, tourism and transportation to information technology, new and renewable energy, communications and enhancing connectivity by air and sea.

Manmohan Singh also announced a fresh line of credit of $100 million for a host of capacity-building institutions.

To intensify security cooperation in combating terrorism, India also offered to develop a police training academy and decided to fast track the proposal for a passenger-cum-cargo ferry service between Cochin and Male.

They also decided to look at the possibility of developing a port north of Male. The meeting comes against the backdrop of China's renewed foray to deepen its diplomatic footprints in the strategically located island.

India has taken note of the visit of Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China, to the Maldives in May, but has rejected any rivalry with Beijing.

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