Indian Defence Minister avoids visiting Sri Lanka

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will embark on a two-day visit to the Maldives next week, while Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari will head to Sri Lanka, to bolster defence and strategic ties with two nations amid China’s expanding inroads in Indian Ocean Region.

Both Singh and ACM Chaudhari will leave for their official visits to the key maritime neighbours on Monday. Singh is expected to meet Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and defence minister Mariya Didi during the trip.

With an eye firmly on China, India has been helping Malé with the capacity-building of the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF), military aid and training, EEZ surveillance and hydrographic surveys.

Indian Defence secretary Giridhar Aramane had visited Maldives last month for the bilateral defence cooperation dialogue, under which the two countries had decided to further boost bilateral military ties, especially in the maritime domain, engagements and the complexity of joint exercises.

India has stepped up its diplomatic and military engagement with Maldives, which included assistance during the Covid pandemic, especially since the government led by President Solih came to power in 2018.

The two nations share common perspectives on maritime security issues in the IOR and have been working together closely in several bilateral, mini-lateral and multilateral fora such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and the Colombo Security Conclave, an official said.

TNN

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