Prime Minister Narendra Modi will set out on a five-day tour of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka on Tuesday. The tour, during which Modi will visit former warzone and Tamil heartland Jaffna, is expected to give a fillip to the country’s Indian Ocean outreach. Modi will be the first Indian PM to visit Jaffna where he will hand over homes built with Indian assistance.
New Delhi will be looking forward to a solution to the issue of Indian fishermen’s rights amid controversial remarks by Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe when Modi visits Sri Lanka on March 13-14 on the third and final leg of his tour, said officials.
Asked at a news meet about the controversy over Wickremesinghe’s remarks that Indian fishermen may be shot if they intruded into his country’s waters, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had taken up the matter with the premier during their meeting in Colombo last Saturday.
“It is recognised today that there is a livelihood issue (of fishermen). There is a humanitarian aspect. We expect to sit with Lanka in finding a solution,” Jaishankar said. The current thinking is that fishermen bodies on both sides could meet just after Modi’s Lanka visit.
Jaishankar also said that India is working with Sri Lanka’s new government to repatriate nearly one lakh Tamil refugees who fled to Tamil Nadu during the civil war. “We had agreed when Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister was here (in Delhi) in January to find ways by which these refugees could go back with honour, dignity, safety,” he said, adding that one bilateral meeting in this regard was held on January 30.
In Seychelles, where he is due to reach Tuesday night, Modi will hold talks with President James Alexis Michel Wednesday in a bid to strengthen maritime security and bilateral development cooperation. He will be the second Indian PM after Indira Gandhi to visit the strategic island nation.
Modi will head to Mauritius Wednesday afternoon where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth and address the Mauritian parliament.
Modi will also be chief guest at Mauritius’s 42nd National Day celebrations.