Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first foreign visit in his second term to Sri Lanka and the Maldives shows the Indian government’s traditional diplomatic emphasis on the “Neighbourhood First” Policy. It is necessary for India to maintain an amicable relationship with its immediate neighbours to achieve its aspiration as a global power as these nations are economically and strategically important. However, for the past few years, India has faced challenges while maintaining bilateral relations with the neighbouring nations. Now, the government is taking measures to address these challenges to obtain a strategic advantage in the region.
India recently joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct as an Observer, after a high-level meeting held virtually on August 26 this year. This has furthered India’s outreach at the Indian Ocean Region. This opportunity must be utilised, especially amid the current times of crisis to provide various assistances apart from maritime security to the littorals in the Western Indian Ocean Region, which holds global strategic significance.
Due to the strategic location of Sri Lanka, many major powers have raced to claim their own interests in the nation. Currently, China is making use of Sri Lanka as a part of its BRI and string of pearls strategy. India too sees the significance of bilateral ties with the island nation. India and Sri Lanka’s bilateral ties are thousands of years of old, characterised by common culture, tradition and history. India, to counter China and create a balance of power in the region, must ensure close diplomatic ties with smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka.
The Indian Ocean is the 3rd largest ocean in the world. Its geopolitical importance stems from vast and largely unexplored mineral deposits and also serving as shipping highway. It is surrounded by 51 countries representing 25% of the world’s landmass. In the post-COVID world, the world nations will have to step up efforts to make up for the lost economic grounds. For this, IORA is being regarded as one of the possible avenues for improving international ties- especially as its one of the low hanging fruits.
India’s importance in the Indian Ocean region and rising recognition of the same was once again highlighted recently when it joined the Indian Ocean Commission as an observer. India being a predominant force in the Indian Ocean, joining this important organization lends much required depth to SAGAR vision of PM Narendra Modi.