Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming bilateral visits to the neighbouring countries of Maldives and Sri Lanka after assuming office for the second term indicate the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighbourhood-First’ policy.
PM Modi’s two-day visit to Maldives will begin on June 8. While the Prime Minister had earlier visited the Maldives in November 2018 to attend President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s swearing-in ceremony, this visit will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister at a bilateral level in eight years.
During the visit, PM Modi will address the Majlis (Maldivian Parliament). Before the address, the PM is expected to hold discussions with the speaker Mohamed Nasheed.
To assist Maldives in its development and revival of its economy, a slew of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) are expected to be signed between the two countries, including budgetary support for development projects, extending the Line of Credit for projects including water supply and sewerage, high impact community development projects, customs, and white shipping.
Both PM Modi and the Maldivian President will jointly inaugurate two defence-related projects – a coastal surveillance radar system and composite training centre for Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF), strengthening defence ties.
The PM will also be holding a bilateral meeting with the leader of Jumhooree Party, Faisal Naseem, who also happens to be the Vice President of Maldives.
Later, the PM will hold individual meetings with Qasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party and Sheikh Imran of Adalat Party, who is the Home Minister of Maldives. The PM is also expected to hold separate discussions with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and former President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The PM’s visit demonstrates the priority India attaches to the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine.
On the other hand, Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka assumes significance as it is a clear mark of solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka after the Easter terror attacks. Also, this is the first time any head of state in the world is visiting Sri Lanka after the dastardly attacks.
The Indian Prime Minister had earlier visited Sri Lanka on March 2015 and May 2017. During the first of these two visits, Modi had given a historic address in the Sri Lankan parliament.
“No matter where you look in India or Sri Lanka, the many strands of our links – religion, language, culture, food, customs, traditions, and epics – come together into a deep and strong bond of familiarity and friendship,” Modi had said during his address. “Ours is a relationship that is beautifully defined by the journey of Mahindra and Sanghamitra. They carried the message of peace, tolerance, and friendship more than two millenniums ago.”
On his second visit to the island country, Modi had held wide-ranging talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and discussed ways to further deepen bilateral ties.