India, Maldives, Lanka to restart NSA-level talks

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India, Maldives, Lanka to restart NSA-level talksNEW DELHI: India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are planning to revive their tri-nation national security adviser-level security dialogue, in the backdrop of Colombo terrorist strikes and following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to Male and Colombo, the first foreign destinations he chose to visit in his second term. The talks had been put on hold five years ago, because of the approach of the then Yameen regime in the Maldives.

Mauritius and the Seychelles might also be included in this dialogue at a later stage as was originally envisaged. Growing terror ist networks in the Indian Ocean Region and maritime security that enables India to maintain its role as the net security provider in the region will top the agenda of the tri-nation NSA dialogue and its expanded format, people familiar with the matter said. Growing terrorist network including rising presence of ISIS is a challenge for all three — India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Modi’s weekend visit to Male and agreements concluded during that trip, and inauguration of a radar network and defence training centre, have underlined India’s critical role as the net-security provider in the region, where China is trying to increase its influence. Similarly, during his brief visit to Colombo on Sunday, the PM emphasised on India’s support to counter terror.

Among the other two nations, the Mauritius PM was on the invitee list for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 30. The Seychelles has also figured high as part of Modi’s Indian Ocean outreach and the appointment of a former army chief as the high commissioner to the archipelago nation underlines India’s objectives in the region.

Three NSA-level meetings on maritime trilateral cooperation had earlier been held — Male (2011), Colombo (2013) and New Delhi (2014). At the meeting hosted by New Delhi, Mauritius and the Seychelles were present as guest countries. Later, Mauritius was unwilling to join any NSA dialogue in the presence of Sri Lanka ruled by Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose record was marred by human rights issues. The Maldives was scheduled to hold the fourth NSA-level meet but the Abdulla Yameen regime did not take the initiative. Now, a change of guard in Male has revived hopes for resumption of the talks.