New Delhi: Giving a major fillip to India’s neighourhood outreach in the Indian Ocean region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a five-day visit to the three key island nations of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from March 10.
However, the Maldives leg of the visit is not on, in view of the recent political turmoil in that country after the arrest of opposition leader and former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed.
In Seychelles, the first stop of his tour, Modi will hold bilateral discussions with President James Alexis Michel to strengthen maritime ties and enhance bilateral development cooperation.
Three agreements are set to be inked between Seychelles and India during the visit. Modi will be the second Indian prime minister to visit Seychelles after Indira Gandhi’s visit in 1981.
India’s bilateral cooperation with Seychelles is mainly in the field of health, education, defence and maritime security.
India recently gave a patrol ship to Seychelles, a 115-island country located 1,500 km east of Southeast Africa. The patrol ship was for the Seychelles Coast Guard to better patrol its extensive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Both are likely to ink an agreement to strengthen the energy sector of the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 90,000 people.
Modi next visits Mauritius on March 11-12 where he will hold intensive meetings with Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth to further strengthen India’s special and unique relations with that country. Modi will also be the chief guest at the Mauritian National Day celebrations. A formal invite for the event had been handed over to him personally by Vice-Prime Minister Showkutally Soodun in January.
Besides meeting with the Mauritian prime minister, Modi will also call on President Kailash Purryag, and meet leader of the opposition, Paul Berenger.
Modi is likely to address the Mauritian Parliament on March 12. Besides meeting other political personalities of the island, Modi will pay a visit to the Ganga Talao and Appravasi Ghat, both of which are associated with the arrival of the Indian indentured labour to Mauritius. He will also visit the Mahatma Gandhi Institute.
During the visit, several MoUs are set to be inked, including an agreement to facilitate sea and air transport.
Modi’s final stop will be Sri Lanka, on March 13-14, during which he will hold meetings with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Modi will address a Special Sitting of the Sri Lankan Parliament and also lay a wreath at the Indian Peace Keeping Force ( IPKF) Memorial and visit the Mahabodhi Society. President Maithripala Sirisena will host a state banquet in honour of the visiting Indian prime minister, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said.
Modi is also expected to travel to Anuradhapura, Talaimannar and Jaffna. In Anuradhapura, he will visit the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi. While in Jaffna, he will unveil a plaque at the site of the proposed India- funded Jaffna Cultural Centre and also hand over to beneficiaries, houses built with Indian assistance. In Talaimannar, he will flag off the first train signifying recommencement of the Talaimannar/Medawachchiya sector of the train service to Colombo, following the rehabilitation work carried out with Indian credit assistance, said the foreign ministry.
Modi’s visit is the first official visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian prime minister in 27 years after the 1987 visit by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He will accorded a ceremonial welcome including a Guard of Honour and Gun Salute.
President Sirisena undertook his first state visit to India from Feb 15 to 18, after taking over the presidency.
The exchange of high level visits is a manifestation of the keen desire of the two countries to build upon and nurture an age-old friendship to a level of extraordinary level of excellence, said the Sri Lankan foreign ministry.
“This will provide opportunities to build on the close contacts at the highest political level and enhance mutual cooperation and understanding on major issues of common interest,” said an Indian ministry of external affairs statement.
“The visit of the prime minister to our friendly maritime neighbours is reflective of India’s desire to further strengthen our ties in the Indian Ocean region,” added the statement.
India’s Indian Ocean diplomacy comes as China is pushing ahead with its maritime silk road project, which entails port-building activities at several places in the Indian Ocean.