BY Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar will arrive in Sri Lanka today (28) to participate in the 5th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit Ministerial Meeting in Colombo, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending the Summit on 30 March virtually from New Delhi.
However, Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is expected to attend the Summit as Nepal would chair the next summit and the handing over of the Chairmanship of the next BIMSTEC to Nepal will take place in Sri Lanka.
To prepare for the Summit, meetings of BIMSTEC Senior Officials will take place today followed by meetings of the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers tomorrow (29).
The Covid pandemic-related challenges, and the uncertainties within the international system that all BIMSTEC members are facing, imparts greater urgency to the goal of taking BIMSTEC technical and economic cooperation to the next level. This is expected to be the main subject of deliberations by Leaders at the Summit.
The Leaders are also expected to discuss the establishment of basic institutional structures and mechanisms of the group.
Currently, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Prof. G.L.Peiris, and Dr. S Jaishankar are in the Maldives.
They would be in Addu city in the Maldives on 26 and 27 March, during which Dr. Jaishankar will call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and hold discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid. India will see the signing of several agreements related to the bilateral development cooperation, inauguration/handing-over and launch of a number of key India-supported projects that will contribute to the socio-economic development of the Maldives and enhance its security.
Indian High Commission said Dr. Jaishankar’s visit follows the visits to India by Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka, Basil Rajapaksa in December 2021 and earlier this month and that of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Prof. G.L.Peiris in February 2022. The bilateral meetings and interactions that the Indian Foreign Minister will have in Sri Lanka highlight the priority that Sri Lanka occupies for India.
India said both, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, are India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and occupy a special place in Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ and Neighbourhood First and Dr. Jaishankar’s visit is testimony to the importance that India attaches to its close and friendly relations with the Maldives and Sri Lanka.