Colombo, June 9 (newsin.asia): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first foreign visits after assuming office as Prime Minister for the second time have been eminently successful.
He was in Maldives from June 7 and 8 and dropped in at Colombo on June 9 for brief meetings with Sri Lankan leaders and a visit to St.Anthony’s church in Kochikade which was subjected to a Jehadi suicide attack on April 21, Easter Sunday. On the church visit he was accompanied by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister in Waiting Sajith Premadasa and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.
In Colombo Modi met President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa and the leader of the Tamil National Alliance R.Sampanthan. He met other leaders at a luncheon.
“I had a short but immensely fruitful Sri Lanka visit. Sri Lanka has a special place in our hearts. I assure my sisters and brothers of Sri Lanka that India will always be there with you and support your nation’s progress. Thank you for the memorable welcome and hospitality,” the Indian Prime Minister said on twitter at the end of his visit.
Indian officials said that Modi’s visit was to show solidarity with Sri Lanka in its hour of stress following the April 21 bombings in which more than 250 people were killed.
“I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again. Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka,” the PM tweeted as he arrived in Sri Lanka, Times of India reported.
Modi is the first foreign head of a government to visit Sri Lanka after the April 21 terrorist attacks. With his visit, the Prime Minister will be hoping to send a strong message to the international community regarding the normalcy regained in the current security situation in Sri Lanka.
This could have a substantial positive impact on the foreign tourist inflows into Sri Lanka, and on the Sri Lankan economy at large. India is already assisting the Lankan government in its fight against terrorism.
Indian officials said that it was unfortunate that despite timely warnings given by India, the carnage was not prevented. However, since India is also facing Jehadi terrorism (not Islamic terrorism because Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood), New Delhi feels that it should help Sri Lanka face a similar problem.
India has no axe to grind in Sri Lanka. The help India renders to Sri Lanka is in line with help rendered earlier when floods, landslides and tsunami struck the island. Every time, it was India which came to Sri Lanka’s help first, Indian officials pointed out.
They made it clear that India is not interested in pushing Indian sponsored or funded projects down the throats of Sri Lankans or capturing the Sri Lankan market. The Indian market is itself very sizeable and is a cynosure of all major trading nations.
As Prime Minister Modi has said ever so often, India is ready to help with projects which the Sri Lankans choose and will carry out the work as per the timetable set by Sri Lankans.
Officials pointed out that Indian-aided projects have been valued at US$ 3 billion. Over US$ 500 million of the funding has been in the form of grants.
Indian projects have also been grassroots level ones meant to benefit local communities directly and immediately. The projects include rural housing, sanitation and water supply. These projects are spread throughout the island so that every section of the Lankan population benefits.
However, Indian officials said that India needs to be present in Colombo port through the Eastern Container Terminal. They explained that India has a legitimate interest in the Colombo port because 75% of the port’s business is with India through trans-shipment.
It is in Sri Lanka’s interest to maintain the Indian interest in the Colombo port given the fact that if an alternative port is built in Kerala, Colombo may lose the bulk of its business.
Indian Prime Minister Modi has been very accommodative and responsive to Sri Lanka’s interests and is wedded to promoting Buddhism, the everlasting link between India and Sri Lanka.
Maldivian Pledge To Be With India
Earlier in Male on Saturday, the Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that he has been working towards rekindling and strengthening bilateral relations between his country and India since he assumed the role of President last November.
Assuring that the Maldives would always remain a “faithful and true friend of India”, President Solih stated that his government prioritizes strengthening relations with India and other neighboring nations.
Acknowledging that the relationship between Maldives and India has strengthened significantly over the past few months, President Solih noted that India has always been a country that works towards peace in the Indian Ocean.
“Mr Prime Minister, I thank you for the very personal commitment you have shown in being a friend and partner to the Maldives. I wish Your Excellency, and the people of India peace, progress and prosperity. The Maldives will always remain a true friend of India, firmly committed to our shared vision of peace and development in our countries and our region”, Solih said.
While the visa facilitation agreement signed last December during President Solih’s maiden trip to India is now in effect, the new arrangement has provided ease in travelling between the two countries, the President noted.
Ten Indian Radars
Highlighting the Coastal Surveillance Radar System and the Composite Training Center that were inaugurated earlier on Saturday, President Solih said that the two projects would strengthen the security of both countries.
Speaking on the MoUs exchanged between the two countries, Solih said the efforts to establish an efficient transport network between the two nations would impact both Maldives and India positively.
The ferry link between Cochin, Kulhudhufushi and Male would be of great benefit to businesses, tourists and cargo transportation, the President said and hoped that the project would be implemented at the earliest.
Noting that the government prioritizes skill development, the President revealed that 1000 civil servants will be trained in five years under an MoU signed on Saturday, while customs officials will undergo training for capacity building under a second MoU.
Expressing appreciation to the Prime Minister for the financial support extended to the Maldives in the forms of budgetary support, T-bills, currency swap and Line of Credit, the President said the government has already received budgetary grants as well as subscription through T-bills.
Both countries are working toward implementing projects financed under Line of Credit at the earliest, Solih said.
Indian Prime Minister Modi stated that the decision to visit Maldives as his first visit overseas destination after winning the Indian general elections attested to the Indian government’s commitment to strengthening relations with Maldives.
In a tweet published in Maldivian language ‘Dhivehi’ after his arrival in the Maldives, PM Modi said choosing to visit Maldives on his first trip overseas during his second term emphasizes the importance of the bilateral relations that exist between both countries, and the Indian government’s keenness to develop relations with Maldives in different sectors.
The agreement to establish the ferry link between Cochin, India and Maldives was signed at a special ceremony held at the President’s Office on Saturday evening by Transport Minister Aishath Nahula and Indian Ambassador to the Maldives, Sanjay Sudhir.
A total of six MoUs were exchanged between the two nations during the ceremony, including agreements on civil service training and capacity building, hydrography, white shipping information, and the health sector.
The 10 radar systems gifted by India that are stationed across Maldives, and the Composite Training Center established in Maafilaafushi of Lhaviyani atoll were also inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih through a remote link during the same ceremony.
The MNDF Composite Training Center was established in Lh. Maafilaafushi under Indian aid of US$ 7 million.
The ten radar systems gifted by the Indian government are able to connect with other systems established in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Seychelles through one network and will help to monitor the Maldivian Economic Zone, MNDF has previously reported. The system will provide real-time information on vessels in the area to relevant authorities.
Modi Gets Highest Maldivian Award
The Order of the rule of Izzudeen was conferred on Indian Prime Minister Modi.
The highest award given to any foreign national by the Maldives was presented to the influential political leader by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at a ceremony held on Saturday evening.
The award was presented to Narendra Modi for his efforts in strengthening the age-old friendship between India and Maldives, and in recognition of the assistance that the Indian government continues to provide to the archipelago under the Prime Minister’s leadership.
Speaking at the joint press conference that followed, PM Modi said it is a honour for all of India to be the recipient of the Order of the rule of Izzudeen.
PM Modi is the sixth foreign recipient of the award.
(The featured image at the top shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Sri Lankan children as Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on)