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    Modi's Maldives, Sri Lanka Visit Vital From Security & Economic Angle: Ex-Envoy

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    Modi’s forthcoming visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka provides an important occasion to review bilateral relations. China too has been making inroads in these nations. Thus, it's an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest with these two countries within India’s security perimeter, says a former Indian diplomat.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is scheduled to visit the Maldives and Sri Lanka between June 8 and June 10. This will be his first visit abroad after taking office for his second term as the head of the government.

    The visit to the Maldives on June 8 and 9 highlights New Delhi's continued priority for its "Neighbourhood First" policy. Former Indian diplomat K.P. Fabian has spoken about the significance of the visit in an interview.

    READ MORE: Modi's Look-East Strategy at Oath-Taking Marks Indian Policy Shift — Analyst

    Sputnik: How important is Prime Minister Modi's choice of selecting the Maldives and Sri Lanka as the first two countries to visit at the start of his second term?

    K.P. Fabian: Well, both Maldives and Sri Lanka come within India's security perimeter. China too has been making progress in both Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We have had an election in the Maldives recently, and therefore, there has been a change in direction. So, from a security point of view, these visits are very important and it makes for a sound foreign policy.

    Sputnik: Can we view these visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka as an extension of India's "Neighbourhood First" policy?

    K.P. Fabian: Obviously. Whether it is north or south, it does not make a difference to the essence of the policy. In Sri Lanka's case, we need to understand that it is passing through a very delicate political phase. There is disarray there caused by political differences between the president and the prime minister. There has been a terrible terror attack which may not have taken place had Sri Lanka taken Indian intelligence inputs onboard. The Maldives too is in a period of transition. Therefore, Prime Minister Modi's decision to make these two countries his first ports of call in his second term is important.

    READ MORE: India-Maldives Agree to Strengthen Connectivity, Regional Maritime Security

    Sputnik: Security and growth have been key components of India's foreign policy for some years now. How will these two objectives be addressed during Prime Minister Modi's visits?

    K.P.Fabian: I have already talked briefly about the security aspect. I would say economic growth too is important, but from a neighbourhood point of view, may not be all that important. In comparison to India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are small economies. Even if New Delhi engages in bilateral trade and investment, in absolute terms, it is not much.

    Sputnik: Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih has been promoting an "India First" policy since he assumed office in November 2018. How significant is this in terms of impact on the bilateral relationship?

    K.P.Fabian: It is very important. Maldives very much comes within India's security perimeter. China had made serious inroads under the previous government (led by President Yameen). If you recall, there was a sort of coup and the leadership then was taking the Maldives away and the China brazenly supported the previous dispensation, which is something that India did not do and would not do. It was a right step.    

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik

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    bilateral aid, influence, economy, security, Narendra Modi, India, China, Sri Lanka, Maldives
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