Visit to Maldives, Sri Lanka will reinforce ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy – Modi

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On the eve of his departure to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, kicking off his first overseas visit after the elections, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the visit brings together two key policies of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region).

In a departure statement, Modi said, “I am confident that my visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka will further strengthen our close and cordial ties with our maritime neighbours, in line with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the vision of security and growth for all in the region.”

He further said, “We regard the Maldives as a valued partner… our bilateral relations with the Maldives have been greatly strengthened in the recent past.” India plans to help the Maldives develop its human resources and promised support for both its development and security.

On Sri Lanka, Modi said he wanted to “express solidarity with the government and the people of Sri Lanka in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks there last Easter on April 21. India stands with Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism”.

Modi will leave the Maldives on Sunday morning for Colombo and make a brief stop there before returning to Delhi. “Our bilateral relations with Sri Lanka have gained considerable momentum in the last few years. I had the pleasure of meeting President Sirisena during his recent visit to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new government. I look forward to meeting the Sri Lankan leadership during my visit,” he said.

On Sunday, PM Narendra Modi will become the first foreign dignitary to visit Sri Lanka since the suicide attacks by Islamist terrorists on Easter Sunday in April, in which more than 250 persons were killed.

India’s foreign secretary and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have outlined the basics of what they earlier this week called a ‘short but packed visit’.

The PM will meet with President Maithripala Sirisena, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sambandan.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale described the visit as a “clear message of solidarity” and an expression of India’s ‘confidence in the government of Sri Lanka in overcoming this national tragedy.”

Modi is likely to head straight for St Anthony’s church, which came under terrorist attack on Easter Sunday, en route from the airport to his first meeting with the President in Colombo.