Ambassador of Japan to the Maldives, Her Excellency Keiko Yanai; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Ahmed Khaleel; Foreign Secretary, His Excellency Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed; Commandant of the Coast Guard, Colonel Mohamed Saleem, Resident Representative of JICA to the Maldives, Mr. Kawasaki Mitsuyoshi, Senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassy of Japan in the Maldives.
The signing of the Exchange of Notes today under the Japanese Economic and Social Development Programme symbolises once again, the close and friendly relations that exists between the Maldives and Japan. It represents a bond that is unshakable even in the most trying times, and broadens our excellent cooperation in the field of emergency rescue and crisis management.
I am pleased to acknowledge that the Programme will extend a grant of eight hundred million Japanese Yen, or 7.6 million US dollars to the Maldives Coast Guard and the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Center, which will enhance and upgrade the capacity of our rescue services through the procurement of diving and communications equipment. This enhancement will allow the Maldives to increase its capabilities in saving lives and in responding to emergencies in our coastal waters, as well as the high seas.
The Maldives Coast Guard attends to an average of 390 distress calls every year, saving approximately 900 lives. The high density of sea traffic within and adjacent to the Maldives and its proximity to major international shipping lanes, means that the Coast Guard is constantly struggling to match its resources and capabilities with the high demand for rescue services.
Furthermore, in order to maintain a free and open Indian Ocean, and to enable peace and prosperity in the region, our close collaboration on issues ranging from combating piracy and narco-trafficking, to countering violent extremism must remain high on the agenda for bilateral cooperation. The assistance extended by the Government of Japan is a much needed and timely boost to the capabilities of the Maldives Coast Guard, which I am sure, will go a long way to ensure the safety and security of all within Maldivian waters and its EEZ.
We are humbled and grateful by the generous efforts of the Government of Japan in reaching out to the people of the Maldives at this time of need. Just recently, the Ambassador and I sat here and signed the Exchange of Notes for the largest concessional loan provided by Japan to the Maldives, which marked another important milestone in the Maldives-Japan relationship. Japan has yet again demonstrated its generosity to the Maldives, and its commitment to not just strengthen our bilateral relations, but to make a difference in the lives of the Maldivian people.
Japan occupies a special place in the development story of the Maldives through the past five decades. Japanese grant aid has helped the Government and the Maldivian people in making remarkable progress in education and social development, industrial and economic development, disaster management, mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Even during the ongoing pandemic, Japan was among the first countries to respond to our call for assistance.
The Maldives and Japan share a long-standing partnership based on mutual respect and understanding. We value and attach great importance to our ties as we continue supporting each other in times of need. Under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration, we are committed to continue this upward trajectory, to cooperate more closely and to remain close friends and allies in the years to come.
Let me conclude by expressing my sincere appreciation to Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu for their steadfast support to the Maldives, and to Ambassador Yanai for her leadership and goodwill. I would also like to thank the team at the Embassy of Japan for their exemplary work, with whom we have worked closely together in realising this project in a short space of time.
I thank you.