New Delhi, Jun 7: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said his visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka beginning June 8, Saturday reflects the importance India attaches to its 'Neighbourhood First' policy.
"I would be visiting the Maldives and Sri Lanka on 8th and 9th June. These visits indicate the importance we attach to the policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and will further cement ties with key maritime neighbours," Mr Modi said in a pre departure statement.
Mr Modi's visit to the Maldives will be first bilateral visit after NDA retained power in the recently held Lok Sabha polls.
"We regard the Maldives as a valued partner with whom we share deep bonds of history and culture. Our bilateral relations with the Maldives have been greatly strengthened in the recent past. I am confident that my visit will further deepen our multifaceted partnership," Mr Modi said.
Prime Minister also said that his visit to Sri Lanka is to express "our solidarity" with the Government and the people of Sri Lanka in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks there last Easter on April 21, 2019. "India stands with Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism," he wrote.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Thursday said India and Maldives are expected sign a number of agreements to deepen cooperation in specific areas during Mr Modi's visit.
On Sri Lanka, Mr Modi said India's ties with it have gained considerable momentum in the last few years.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited India to India to attend Modi's swearing-in ceremony on May 30.
Mr Modi's visit continues "regular top level exchanges" between two sides, Foreign Secretary Mr Gokhale has said on Thursday.
Earlier, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had made a state visit to India in December 2018. During his stay in the Maldives, Prime Minister Modi will address the Majlis, Parliament of the island nation.
Mr Modi and the Maldives President Solih will be inaugurating a coastal surveillance radar system and a Comprehensive Training Centre (CTC) for Maldives national forces as part of a joint defence cooperation pact on June 8.
“The coastal surveillance radar system and the CTC are part of the Action Plan for defence cooperation,” he said.
Mr Gokhale said both sides are also keen to give a boost to people-to-people relationship. Gokhale said the Ministry of External Affairs is working with the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to train Maldivian cricketers after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had requested for India's assistance in developing the sport in his country.
"One of the focus in our ties with the Maldives is on people-to-people relationship and in looking at ways to strengthen it...Among the requests, which are under examination, is a cricket stadium in the Maldives. We expect to build it under the line of credit that we plan to give," he has said.
In April, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih attended an Indian Premier League (IPL) match in Bengaluru.
Prime Minister will also visit Sri Lanka on June 9.
India will build a container terminal for the main Colombo Port as part of a joint venture with Japan and Sri Lanka.
“We have reached an initial agreement for a trilateral arrangement," he said.
This will be also the first visit by a foreign leader to Sri Lanka after the tragic events of the April 21 wherein terrorists-triggered bomb blasts resulted in huge casualties in Sri Lanka.
"I look forward to meeting the Sri Lankan leadership during my visit," Mr Modi said in his statement.