Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make the first foreign visit of his second term to the Maldives on June 8-9 and make a stopover in Sri Lanka on his way back home, reflecting the importance India attaches to its “neighborhood first” policy.
Modi had never visited the Maldives during his first term, with a trip being called off because of a downturn in ties due to the policies of the previous administration headed by Abdulla Yameen.
The upcoming visit is also meant to signal India’s commitment to stronger ties with the Indian Ocean archipelago, whose leadership was not invited to Modi’s swearing-in as the focus at the event was on the Bimstec grouping, people familiar with developments said on Monday.
Modi is going to the Maldives at the invitation of President Ibrahim Solih, who made a state visit to India last December. “The visit is reflective of the new momentum in high-level exchanges between India and Maldives,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
The visit will “provide an important occasion to review the recent developments in bilateral relations and exchange views on issues of mutual interest with the objective of further strengthening the special relationship between the two countries,” it stated.
The Maldives is looking to India to help bolster its economy as it grapples with debt from a Chinese building spree undertaken during Yameen’s reign. During Solih’s visit last year, India had announced financial aid of $1.4 billion as budget support, currency help and a line of credit.
Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka on June 9 at the invitation of President Maithripala Sirisena will be an occasion to express solidarity following the Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, the people quoted above stated.
The visits to the two countries will also “demonstrate the priority India attaches to its neighborhood first policy and the Sagar (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine, the external affairs ministry stated.