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Regional Leaders Attend Modi’s Inauguration, Highlighting India’s Strategic Priorities

by Diplomatist Bureau - 20 June, 2024, 12:00 145 Views 0 Comment

The presence of leaders from neighboring countries and the Indian Ocean region at the inauguration of Narendra Modi’s third term underscores the importance New Delhi places on these nations. Attendees included Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Seychelles Vice-President Ahmed Afif, and Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu.

In 2014, Modi’s swearing-in saw the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) member states, while in 2019, the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) countries, along with Mauritius and Kyrgyzstan, were invited.

Bangladesh holds a unique position, having been invited to all three ceremonies. However, this is the first time Prime Minister Hasina attended in person. In 2014, she was on a pre-scheduled visit to Japan and was represented by the parliament speaker, and in 2019, former president Abdul Hamid attended as she was on a three-nation tour.

Bangladesh is a pivotal part of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and has received significant financial support from New Delhi, including soft loans and grants to enhance connectivity in various sectors. Although Bangladesh recently fell from fifth to tenth place among India’s largest export destinations, it remains India’s top trade partner in South Asia. Hasina’s administration has cooperated closely with India on security issues, particularly in the strategic northeastern states, and Japan has aligned its development initiatives in Bangladesh with India’s connectivity efforts.

This visit marks Muizzu’s first trip to New Delhi since taking office in November, following an “India Out” campaign and initiatives to strengthen ties with China. Shortly after assuming office, Muizzu demanded the withdrawal of Indian military personnel operating humanitarian aircraft in the Maldives. India recently replaced these military personnel with civilian experts.

Despite these tensions, Muizzu accepted the invitation to Modi’s inauguration and expressed a desire to improve bilateral relations. He stated that ties with India are moving in a positive direction, as evidenced by this visit. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal highlighted on X that “India and Maldives are maritime partners and close neighbours.”

Sri Lanka has benefited from nearly $4 billion in Indian aid, including currency support, deferred loan payments, and credit lines for essential supplies during its 2022 economic crisis. The two countries are now collaborating on various initiatives to enhance financial, energy, and physical connectivity.

Bhutan and Nepal are also key partners for India, especially given China’s regional ambitions. India has increased its connectivity efforts with Nepal to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative projects. Newly elected Bhutanese Prime Minister Tobgay has played a crucial role in delaying China’s border demarcation efforts, a matter of significant security concern for India’s northeastern region.

The Ministry of External Affairs emphasised that the attendance of these leaders at Modi’s swearing-in aligns with India’s highest priorities, including the “Neighbourhood First” policy and the “SAGAR” vision (Security and Growth for All in the Region).

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