In a bid to reflect continued priority for the neighbours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting the Maldives and Sri Lanka from June 8 to 9 as his first overseas visit in the second term.
Modi will first travel to the Maldives, where he will be going on a State visit — ordinarily reserved for Heads of State. This will be the first bilateral visit to the Maldives by a Prime Minister since 2011, when then PM Manmohan Singh had visited the island country for the SAARC summit and a bilateral visit. However, Modi had visited Male for the swearing-in ceremony of President Ibrahim Solih last year.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that during the visit, both sides will aim to further consolidate overall ties in diverse sectors.
Besides Solih, Modi will meet Vice-President Faisal Naseem and Speaker of Majlis (the Maldivian parliament) and former President Mohamed Nasheed.
With upswing in ties, time to consolidate
Maldives was the only country in the neighbourhood to which Narendra Modi did not go for a bilateral visit during his first term as Prime Minister. Ties had been hit with an unfriendly Abdulla Yameen government in Male, but now the time has come for consolidating on the reset achieved with current President Ibrahim Solih’s visit to India in December. Much will depend on how the chemistry between the two leaders is translated into concrete outcomes on the ground.
The two leaders are expected to jointly inaugurate a couple of projects, including the crucial coastal surveillance radar system, which is key to enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. Gokhale said both sides are expected to explore ways to expand cooperation in a range of areas including defence and security and sign a number of agreements to deepen cooperation in specific areas.
He said that issues relating to stay of two Indian military helicopters in Maldives as well as cases relating to grant of work permits to Indian expatriates have already been resolved. He added that during the state visit, Modi will be addressing the Majlis.
Gokhale said a number of development projects are under consideration, including a ferry service from Kochi to Maldives. The two sides are working on finalising a currency swap agreement, and implementing projects under the Lines of Credit. These projects include water supply and sewage system in 36 islands, urban development of Addu city and small and medium enterprise development financing projects.
Gokhale said India is also looking into constructing a stadium in the South Asian country, which is another request made by it. “One of the focus in our ties with the Maldives is on people-to-people relationship and in looking at ways to strengthen it,” he said.
In April, Solih attended an IPL match in Bengaluru and expressed interest in developing a cricket team in the Maldives and sought India’s assistance in training the team. “So among his requests, which are under examination, is a cricket stadium in the Maldives. We expect to build it under the line of credit that we plan to give,” Gokhale said.
The ministry is working with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to train Maldivian cricketers, he added.
Lanka visit in solidarity
New Delhi: After visiting the Maldives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Sri Lanka on June 9 for a short but packed visit, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.
The visit is aimed at sending a very clear message of solidarity in the wake of the Easter Sunday terror attack, in which more than 250 people died. In fact, Modi will be the first first foreign leader to visit the nation after the terror attack, Gokhale said.—ENS
Before Maldives, stop in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will offer prayers at Kerala’s Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple on Saturday. After the darshan at the temple in Thrissur district, the PM would also address a meeting of party workers at the temple town.
Official sources said Modi would reach Kochi naval base on Friday night and would stay at government guest house there. On Saturday morning, Modi will fly to Guruvayur by special chopper. After his programmes there, the PM will fly to the international airport in Kochi, from where he will head to the Maldives.—ENS