The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Male finds an e-dream merchant

Male, Sept. 23: An archipelago’s dream of connecting with the internet age may at last come true. And India, the big neighbour will play, if not the dream merchant, but certainly the connector.

India today pledged to help Maldives realise its dream of rising from its oceanic existence to the e-age.

At his meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom spelt out his dream of setting up an “internet island”. Elsewhere in the world, it will be called a software technology park. But for a nation that is a conglomerate of some 1,200 islands, about 200 of them inhabited, everything is expressed in oceanic and island terms.

India responded to the idea positively and suggested that Maldives send a delegation to Hyderabad and Bangalore to flesh out the idea. The island internet park will help Maldives graduate also into e-governance. An Indian consultancy firm is already working on a unique project with the Maldivian postal department to computerise its postal service.

Vajpayee today carried forward India's tradition of building up social, health and human resource infrastructure in the Maldives, when he laid the foundation for the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies. This is the third such initiative after the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, set up in 1995, and the Maldives Institute of Technical Institution in 1996.

Nearly five million tourists, which is twice Maldives’ population visit the country every year. Tourism is the biggest contributor to the country’s economy and its foreign exchange earnings.

India’s commitment to Maldives’ health and education infrastructure is also likely to increase in the next few years. Vajpayee gave ample indication that despite its small size, Maldives will receive greater attention from India in the years ahead.

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