Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Maldives and Sri Lanka from June 8 and June 9, in reflection of the continued emphasis on the neighbourhood countries in his second term, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
In his first bilateral visit after coming back to power in the Lok Sabha elections, Modi will travel to Maldives. He will then visit Sri Lanka on June 9 with a “very clear message of solidarity” in the wake of the Easter bombings, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said. The attacks in Sri Lanka on April 21 killed 253 people in the country.
This will be Modi’s first visit to Maldives since 2011. The prime minister visited the island nation in November to attend President Ibrahim Solih’s swearing-in ceremony. However, it was not a full-fledged bilateral visit. The last visit was by Manmohan Singh in 2011 for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or the SAARC, bilateral summit.
Gokhale said both sides are expected to explore ways to expand cooperation in a range of areas including defence and security and sign a number of agreements to deepen cooperation in specific areas.
The relations between India and the Maldives had deteriorated after former President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 last year. Under Solih’s presidency, the ministry said there has been significant progress in bilateral relations since he was elected in November 2018.
Gokhale also said that Modi will be given a state visit to Maldives. He said it is reserved for heads of the state and that is a mark of respect to both India and the Prime Minister that he is given such a treatment. After the initial welcome ceremony, Modi will attend a meeting with Soli, Vice President Naseem, the Speaker Nasheed and leaders of some of the political parties. He also said Modi will be addressing the Maldivian parliament.
“President and prime minister will jointly inaugurate two projects Coastal Surveillance Radar system and Composite training centre for the Maldives national defence forces,” the foreign secretary said. “The total value of these two important projects is approximately 180 crore.”
Former President and newly-elected Speaker Mohamed Nasheed had said it will be a “tremendous honour” to welcome Modi.
On Modi’s Sri Lanka visit, the MEA said that this will be the first visit by a foreign leader to Sri Lanka after the tragic events of the April 21. He said Modi will hold talks with Sri Lankan president, prime minister and the leader of opposition among others.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had said Modi’s visit would be an “honour for the people of Sri Lanka”.
The Ministry also said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will visit Bhutan from June 7 to June 8.
“India and Bhutan share a unique and time tested bilateral relationship, characterized by utmost trust, goodwill and mutual understanding,” The Ministry said in a statement. “During the visit, the two sides will discuss entire gamut of bilateral relations, including the upcoming high-level exchanges, economic development and hydro-power cooperation.”