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Modi to charm island nations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon visit the Island nations of Indian Ocean region to reinforce India's foreign policy objectives as part of South Asian neighborhood diplomacy. This visit will be significant in many respects as he will be visiting Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius, which can be great maritime partners for India in the strategically sensitive Indian Ocean region. Apart from strengthening relations, Modi government is planning to offer military and civil assistance to these island nations for capacity building to ensure maritime security in the region. Successive Indian government has long neglected these island nations and now the new Indian government is putting efforts to win some of the lost ground to enhance India’s strategic reach.


Going by India’s sharp rise in power politics, Narendra Modi’s visit to four island nations is a well thought out plan as part of India’s foreign policy currently being pursued by the new NDA government. However, India’s past negligence is quite visible.

No Indian PM has visited Sri Lanka in the past 28 years and the last visit to Seychelles was made only by former PM Indira Gandhi. Therefore, Modi’s visit to these countries holds great significance as he is keen to regain the lost ground in the close neighborhood.

Since Modi government is pursuing socio-economic development as a key benefactor for placing a rising India in the global stage, stability and cooperation with neighbors assume immense importance. These four island nations were once very close to India but in the last decade the sheer ignorance by the previous UPA government has caused much damage to the relations.

Even few senior officials from these countries have privately admitted that they did not receive a warm and strong comfort from India government in the recent past. That pushed them to look for friends from distant continents.

No doubt, regaining the trust factor in these countries will be a challenge for Modi Government. However, India does have some advantage with these island nations as it shares geographical and cultural similarities. But gaining the trust as a strategic partner in the region will need much sincere efforts.

India is planning to provide maritime and defence support to these countries. Also, it will provide patrol ships, surveillance radars and ocean mapping for the island states.

To enhance maritime surveillance cooperation with these countries, India is also looking to set up few bases in the region, which it might take on lease. India has carried out as survey to identify the maritime needs of the islands nations and plans to address them soon.

India wants to consolidate its strategic position in the India Ocean region which was neglected completely by the previous government for decades. Since India was almost inactive in IOR for past decade, China, taking full advantage of this situation, has made significant inroads into the South Asian region.

Indeed, it is not difficult to see why regional countries welcome Chinese interests and investment. All these nations have taken Chinese loans at much higher interest rates than the normal lending rates. Also, this has been accompanied by a significant stepping up of military activity as well. That can harm Indian interests in the long run.

China's robust participation in the anti-piracy task force off Somalia has given it a great opportunity to maintain a presence in IOR and familiarize itself with the region. China's overt military support to Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius is an issue, which has caused enormous anxiety in India.

In recent times, the strategic inroads of China in the South Asian region has upset India’s grand plan to emerge as a regional power since China is fortifying its strategic- defence position in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

As China has already become a close partner with island nations in the Indian Ocean region, Modi is trying to portray India as a reliable strategic partner and is putting efforts to enhance the credibility of India as power to be reckoned with.