Millennium Post

Visit to Maldives, Sri Lanka reflects India's priority towards neighbourhood first policy: PM

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said his visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka beginning Saturday reflects the importance India attaches to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy and that it will further cement bilateral ties with the two maritime countries.

Modi will first travel to the Maldives, in his first bilateral visit after retaining power in the Lok Sabha polls. From Maldives, he will go to Sri Lanka on Sunday.

"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," the prime minister said.

In a pre-departure statement, he said his visit to Sri Lanka is to express India's solidarity with the government and the people of the island nation in the wake of the "terrible terrorist attacks" there on April 21.

"The people of India stand firmly with the people of Sri Lanka, who suffered great agony and destruction in the wake of the horrific terror attacks on Easter. We fully support Sri Lanka in the fight against terror," he said.

Sri Lanka was hit by a wave of bombings on Easter Sunday in which over 250 people were killed.

About his visit to Maldives, Modi said India considers the country as a valued partner with whom it shares deep bonds of history and culture.

"Our bilateral relations with the Maldives have been greatly strengthened in the recent past. I am confident that my visit will further deepen our multi-faceted partnership," he said.

The prime minister visited the Maldives in November to attend President Ibrahim Solih's swearing-in ceremony.

The relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year. However, ties were back on track under Solih's presidency.

"I also had the opportunity to attend the inauguration of President Solih in November 2018. My visit to the Maldives is reflective of the importance we both attach to our relationship as maritime neighbours and long-standing friends," Modi said.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Thursday said both sides are expected sign a number of agreements to deepen cooperation in specific areas during Modi's visit.

On Sri Lanka, Modi said India's ties with it have gained considerable momentum in the last few years.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited India last week to India Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

"I look forward to meeting the Sri Lankan leadership during my visit," Modi said.

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