External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will be on a three-day visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka beginning Wednesday to further expand bilateral engagement with the two key maritime neighbours of India.
Mr. Jaishankar’s first destination will be the Maldives, where he will sign several agreements to bolster bilateral cooperation.
His visit to Sri Lanka on Thursday comes at a time when the island nation is battling an economic crisis and is looking forward to debt restructuring from New Delhi.
Sri Lanka, which is trying to secure a much-needed $2.9 billion bridge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been trying to get financial assurances from its major creditors China, Japan, and India. The IMF has expressed its unwillingness to release funds till India and China agree to reduce Colombo’s debt.
Mr. Jaishankar is scheduled to call on Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.
He will also hold discussions with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister M. U. M. Ali Sabry on the entire gamut of a close India-Sri Lanka partnership and steps to strengthen it in all spheres, the MEA statement said.
“Sri Lanka is a close friend and neighbour, and India has stood with the people of Sri Lanka at all times,” the statement said.
Jaishankar had earlier visited Sri Lanka in January 2021 and March last year.
During his visit to the Maldives on Wednesday, Jaishankar would call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and hold discussions with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
The minister’s visit to Male will see signing of agreements related to the bilateral development cooperation, ground-breaking/inauguration/handing-over and launch of a number of key India-supported projects that will contribute to the socio-economic development of the Maldives, the statement said.
The MEA statement said that both the Maldives and Sri Lanka are India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupy a special place in the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and ‘Neighbourhood First’.
It said the external affairs minister’s visit is testimony to the importance that India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka.