Foreign policy has been one of the major focus areas in the first Narendra Modi government. Following the trend, PM Narendra Modi is set to start off his foreign relations campaign for the second term by a visit to India’s maritime neighbors, Maldives and Sri Lanka. These visits to the neighboring nations by Indian Prime Minister come in line with the larger ‘Neighborhood-First Policy’ and SAGAR or Security and Growth for All in the Region doctrine.
Before his first foreign visit to the island nation, the government of Maldives has decided to confer PM Modi the country’s highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries. Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid made the announcement on his Twitter handle. He tweeted, “President @ibusolih has announced his decision to confer on PM of India H.E. @narendramodi the Maldives highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries, “The Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen” during PM’s visit today. Namaskar, Swagatham”.
President @ibusolih has announced his decision to confer on PM of India H.E. @narendramodi the Maldives highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries, “The Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen” during PM’s visit today. Namaskar, Swagatham ?
— Abdulla Shahid ? (@abdulla_shahid) June 8, 2019
Under its ‘Neighbourhood-First Policy’, India has been focusing on its immediate neighbors in the South East Asian region which includes nations like Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and others. Under this policy, India has been rapidly expanding its cultural, economic and strategic ties with these nations. In his pre-departure message, PM Narendra Modi has also emphasized on the ‘Neighbourhood-First Policy’ and India’s vision of ‘Security And Growth for all in the Region‘.
I would be visiting the Maldives and Sri Lanka on 8th and 9th June. These visits indicate the importance we attach to the policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and will further cement ties with key maritime neighbours. https://t.co/vMW2cT55EZ
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 7, 2019
He said, “I am visiting the Republic of Maldives and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on 08-09 June 2019 at the invitation of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and President Maithripala Sirisena, respectively. This will be my first overseas visit after my re-election.”
During his visit to the Maldives, PM Modi is expected to jointly inaugurate 2 defence related projects with his Maldivian counterpart, one composite training centre for Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) and a coastal surveillance radar system. The total value of these projects is expected to be around $180 crores. Many MOU’s including training of civil servants, customs and white shipping are also expected to be signed during the visit. Reiterating India’s commitment towards India-Maldives partnership, PM Modi said in his pre-departure message.
“We regard the Maldives as a valued partner with whom we share 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 multifaceted partnership.”
On his second stop in Sri Lanka, PM Modi is expected to express India’s solidarity in the wake of the horrific Easter terror bombings in the island nation “My visit to Sri Lanka is to express our solidarity with the Government and the people of Sri Lanka in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks there last Easter on 21 April 2019. India stands with Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism.”
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India, Austin Fernando: PM Narendra Modi's visit to Sri Lanka will send a message that it is a safe place to travel to. We would like the Indian government to lift the travel advisory for Sri Lanka. pic.twitter.com/lgA4wyTzPl
— ANI (@ANI) June 7, 2019
Further highlighting the progress in India-Sri Lanka Relationship, PM Modi said “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.”
Sri Lanka’s envoy Austin Fernando to India told WION, “Definitely he will like to visit places impacted sometimes because that is going to be standing with another set of people who have been victims of the disaster. His concerns once again, the human concern of the PM”
The core objective of the SAGAR doctrine remains India’s commitment to contain China in the Indian Ocean. Modi government has focused on this during the first term and engaged vital states in the region for containing China with favorable results. Maldives award shows Modi government’s foreign policy with respect to regional allies in the objective of containing China is working well.
Over the past few years India has intensified its efforts to boost its partnership with neighboring nations, recent invitation to BIMSTEC leaders to the swearing-in ceremony was just another step forward in the same direction. Strong regional co-operation with the neighbors will also aid India in countering rogue nations like Pakistan, which have been destabilizing the security situation in the region. Strong regional co-operation also reinforces India’s belief of constructive relations with neighbors provided they reciprocate the gesture and do not work adversely to India’s interests.