AT a time Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region is evident, New Delhi is moving in fast to strengthen maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will be in Sri Lanka on Friday to hold discussions with key security and defence ministers of Sri Lanka and Maldives, and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is headed to Seychelles.
Doval will be in Colombo on Friday, where he will hold a NSA-level trilateral meeting on maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Maj Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne and Maldives Defence Minister Mariya Didi.
This mechanism is being revived after six years — past meetings were held in Maldives (2011), in Sri Lanka (2013), and in India (2014).
“The NSA-level Trilateral Meeting has served as an effective platform for cooperation among Indian Ocean countries,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement Thursday.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for discussion on issues pertaining to cooperation in maritime security, it added. On the sidelines, the NSA is also expected to have other bilateral engagements, it said.
Jaishankar will travel to Seychelles on Nov 27-28 November, after visiting Bahrain and the UAE.
He will call-on newly-elected President Wavel Ramkalawan and discuss the priorities of the new government and avenues for further strengthening relations. He will also hold consultations with newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde.
His visit assumes significance as India is developing infrastructure at the Assumption island, a key strategic project. Developing infrastructure on Assumption island in Seychelles is a key piece in India’s proactive maritime strategy as it counters China’s moves in Indian Ocean region.
But President Ramkalawan opposed the project in the course of his political campaign.
Jaishankar’s visit is the first in-person visit to Seychelles since the Covid pandemic. Seychelles, which is under strict quarantine norms, has made an exemption to allow the visit. “To the best of our knowledge, no other high-level visit has taken place since the new President took over. Hence, the External Affairs minister will be the first high-level visitor he will be receiving,” a source said.
Jaishankar, it is learnt, is carrying a letter from Prime Minister Modi to the newly elected President.