It’s ‘India first’ as PM Narendra Modi seeks to fend off China in Maldives and Sri Lanka

SCMP

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on first foreign trip since winning re-election.
  • India is pursuing a ‘neighbourhood first’ foreign policy centred on its allies in South Asia.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first overseas trip since being elected to a second term by travelling to Sri Lanka and Maldives where he sought to fend off China’s influence on the strategic nations.

Modi on Sunday was received at the airport in Colombo by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, before scheduled talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Modi was stopping in Colombo for a few hours on his return home after an official visit to neighbouring Maldives, where he inaugurated a coastal radar system and military training centre.


Sri Lanka has leased a Chinese-built port located near the world’s busiest east-west shipping route to a Chinese firm in 2017 for 99 years in a bid to recover from the heavy burden of repaying a Chinese loan to build the facility.

Hambantota port is part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that stretches from Chinese waters to the Persian Gulf.

In March this year, China also agreed to provide a US$989 million loan
to Sri Lanka to build a motorway that will connect the island nation’s tea-growing central region to the southern port.

Sri Lanka has been trying to balance both Asian giants.
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