External Affairs Minister Jaishankar begins 5-day visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka : The Tribune India


New Delhi, March 26

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar began a five-day visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Saturday to explore possibilities for further expanding bilateral engagement with India’s two major maritime neighbours.

Jaishankar’s first destination will be the Maldives, where he will inaugurate a number of Indian-backed projects and materialize several agreements to further enhance bilateral cooperation.

His visit to Sri Lanka from March 28-30 comes more than a week after India announced a $1 billion line of credit to the island nation to help it weather the current economic crisis.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said during his visit to the Maldivian town of Addu from March 26-27, Jaishankar will visit President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and hold talks with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.

“The Foreign Minister’s visit will see the signing of several agreements related to bilateral development cooperation, the inauguration/handover and launch of a number of key Indian-backed projects that will contribute to socio- economy of the Maldives and improve its security,” the MEA said in a statement.

The Maldives is one of India’s major maritime neighbors in the Indian Ocean region and bilateral defense and security relations have been on an upward trajectory in recent years.

Jaishankar will visit Sri Lanka from March 28-30. The trip follows visits to India by Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa in December 2021 and earlier this month and Foreign Minister GL Peiris in February.

“The bilateral meetings and interactions that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will have in Sri Lanka highlight the priority that Sri Lanka holds for India,” the MEA said.

Jaishankar will also attend BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) ministerial meeting on March 29 in Colombo.

“The Maldives and Sri Lanka are India’s key maritime neighbors in the Indian Ocean region and hold a special place in the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ and Neighborhood First,” the MEA said.

“The Foreign Minister’s visit is testimony to the importance India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka,” he said.

SAGAR or “Security and Growth for All in the Region” aims at cooperative measures for sustainable use of the oceans in the region.

Shirlene J. Manley