EAM Jaishankar begins 5-day visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar embarked on a five-day visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Saturday to explore the possibilities of further expansion of bilateral engagement with the two key maritime neighbours of India.
Jaishankar's first destination will be the Maldives, where he will inaugurate a number of India-supported projects and firm up several agreements to further bolster bilateral cooperation.
His visit to Sri Lanka from March 28 to March 30 comes over a week after India announced a USD 1 billion line of credit to the island nation to help it deal with the ongoing economic crisis.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said during his visit to the Maldivian city of Addu from March 26 to March 27, Jaishankar will call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and hold discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulla Shahid.
"The external affairs minister's visit will see the signing of several agreements related to the bilateral development cooperation, inauguration/handing-over and launch of a number of key India-supported projects that will contribute to the socio-economic development of the Maldives and enhance its security," the MEA said in a statement.
The Maldives is one of India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean region and the bilateral defence and security ties have been on an upward trajectory in the last few years.
Jaishankar will visit Sri Lanka from March 28 to March 30. The trip follows the visits to India by Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa in December 2021 and earlier this month and that of Foreign Minister GL Peiris in February.
"The bilateral meetings and interactions which the external affairs minister will have in Sri Lanka highlight the priority that Sri Lanka occupies for India," the MEA said.
Jaishankar will also participate in the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) ministerial meeting on March 29 in Colombo.
"Both Maldives and Sri Lanka are India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupy special place in the prime minister's vision of 'SAGAR' and Neighbourhood First," the MEA said.
"The external affairs minister's visit is testimony to the importance that India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka," it said.
SAGAR or "Security and Growth for all in the Region" is aimed at cooperative measures for sustainable use of the oceans in the region.