After the Maldives, Jaishankar in Sri Lanka to secure the Indian Ocean neighborhood, against China

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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar kicked off his visit to Sri Lanka on Monday with a series of meetings as he seeks to strengthen the government’s policy doctrine for the Indian Ocean “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the region) amid China’s growing influence that threatens the Indian maritime. domain security.

The minister arrived in Colombo on Sunday evening after a two-day visit to the Maldives, where he also sought to revive SAGAR. He will be in Sri Lanka until March 30.

While in the island nation, Jaishankar called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, assuring them of India’s support to help the country overcome the economic crisis.

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

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 line of credit in the island country to buy food, medicine and other essentials.

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

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

He also provided an update on the fuel supply situation in Sri Lanka by visiting Lanka IOC. “The $500 million Indian LoC (Line of Credit) helps Sri Lankans in their daily lives,” he said in a tweet.

Sri Lanka is currently facing unprecedented fuel shortages this led to long blackouts across the country, which impacted their industry.

Jaishankar will also attend the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on March 29 in Colombo. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 5th BIMSTEC Summit virtually 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 the two countries.

Sri Lanka also has asked for help from China to stabilize its economic situation.


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Maldives re-engages in India-first policy

During Jaishankar’s two-day visit to the Maldives, EAM met with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih amid growing and emerging voices against India as part of a so-called ‘India Out’ campaign promoted by the former President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, who was considered a China-backed president of the Maldives, was ousted in 2018 and was replaced by Solih. However, Yameen has now back after living behind bars for corruption, and is currently waging a vociferous anti-Indian campaign.

During his visit, Jaishankar provided an update on all the projects New Delhi is carrying out in the Maldives for its socio-economic development and enhanced security. He even inaugurated the Maldives Police Academy and the Drug Detox and Rehabilitation Centre, both built by India.

During a meeting on Sunday with President Solih, Jaishankar was again assured by the Maldives that Malé will always follow a India First Policy.

Veteran diplomat Rajiv Bhatia told ThePrint: “To the Maldives, the foreign minister’s visit is aimed at advancing bilateral cooperation and projects as well as assessing whether the anti-India constituency is being effectively countered.”

He added, “In Colombo, the China factor is the permanent subtext, while the focus is on the rejuvenation of BIMSTEC. India must lead, and lead wisely. These two visits are of great importance for our foreign policy objectives.


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