As the Indian Ocean theatre becomes an increasing site of global contestation, Delhi has officially announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-country – Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka - tour from Wednesday to deepen India’s maritime security. Amid speculation this was an effort to counter Chinese influence, Delhi was quick to caution that relations with these states were historical and based on people to people ties, and not a ‘zero sum game’ vis a vis any third country.
Modi tweeted, “Indian Ocean is a region of great inspiration for us and India attaches paramount importance to strengthening relations with this region.”
He will become the first Indian PM to pay a bilateral visit to Sri Lanka after 28 years on 13th March, where he will meet the country’s top leadership and address the parliament.. Modi will also visit the IPKF memorial to pay homage to the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives to protect the integrity of Sri Lanka, said foreign secretary S Jaishankar. Modi will meet leaders across the spectrum, including former president Chandrika Kumaratunga and leaders of the Tamil National Alliance.
The next day, the PM will visit, among other places, Jaffna where he will inaugurate a cultural centre and hand over houses constructed by India to internally displaced people. Encouraging democratic reforms and reconciliation will be a key agenda during the trip.
He would get to Colombo after spending a day and a half in Mauritius, where Modi is the chief guest for the country’s national day.
The PM will visit the Apravasi Ghat, where Indian indentured labour first landed in 1834, and commission an off shore petrol vessel. But first, Modi would kick off his trip with Seychelles, with which India has close ties based on ‘maritime security and development cooperation’. 10,000 of the 93,000 citizens of Seychelles are of Indian origin.