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After Maldives, Jaishankar in Sri Lanka to secure Indian Ocean neighbourhood, counter China

The back-to-back visits by EAM S. Jaishankar is expected to strengthen India’s maritime security domain under the ‘SAGAR’ doctrine, in view of growing Chinese influence.

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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Monday kickstarted his Sri Lanka visit Monday with a slew of meetings as he seeks to boost the government’s Indian Ocean policy doctrine ‘SAGAR’ (Security And Growth for All in the Region) amid China’s growing influence that threatens India’s maritime domain security.

The minister reached Colombo Sunday evening after a two-day visit to Maldives, where too he sought to boost SAGAR. He will be in Sri Lanka until 30 March.

While in the island nation, Jaishankar called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, assuring them India’s support in helping the country tide over the economic crisis.

He is expected to meet Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris. He is also slated to meet senior officials from the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) member countries.

On Monday, Jaishankar began his high-level meetings in Sri Lanka by meeting their Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa whom he met in New Delhi earlier this month when India gave a $1 billion credit line to the island country to buy food, medicines and other essential items.

During his meeting with the Sri Lankan FM, Jaishankar said India will continue to help its neighbour in managing the massive economic crisis it is facing.

“The bilateral meetings and interactions which EAM will have in Sri Lanka highlight the priority that Sri Lanka occupies for India,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.

He also took stock of the fuel supply situation in Sri Lanka by visiting Lanka IOC. “Indian LoC (Line of Credit) of US $500 million is helping Sri Lankan people in their everyday life,” he said in a tweet.

Sri Lanka is currently facing unprecedented fuel shortages that has led to long power cuts across the country impacting their industry.

Jaishankar will also participate in the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on 29 March in Colombo. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be virtually attending the 5th BIMSTEC Summit the following day.

Meanwhile, India’s Chief Economic Advisor V. Anantha Nageswaran, met Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India, Milinda Moragoda, in New Delhi to discuss the ongoing economic partnership between both countries.

Sri Lanka has also sought China’s help in stabilising its economic situation.


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Maldives commits to India-first policy again

During Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Maldives, the EAM met President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih amid increasing and emerging voices against India under a so-called ‘India Out’ campaign promoted by ex-President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, who was seen as a China-backed President of Maldives, was ousted in 2018 and was succeeded by Solih. However, Yameen has now made a comeback after living behind the bars on corruption charges, and is currently running a vehement anti-India campaign.

During his visit, Jaishankar took stock of all the projects that New Delhi is running in Maldives for its socio-economic development and security enhancement. He even inaugurated the Maldives Police Academy and Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre — both built by India.

At a meeting Sunday with President Solih, Jaishankar was once again assured by Maldives that Malé will always follow an India-first policy.

Veteran diplomat Rajiv Bhatia told ThePrint, “In Maldives, the visit by the external affairs minister is about pushing forward bilateral cooperation and projects as well as assessing if the ant-India constituency is being countered effectively.”

He added, “In Colombo, the China factor is the abiding sub-text, while the main focus is on rejuvenation of BIMSTEC. India has to lead, and lead wisely. Both visits are of much importance for our foreign policy goals.”


Also read: India-China have reached ‘understanding’ on Ladakh disengagement but no timeline, says Jaishankar


 

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