Oceanic Diplomacy: High stakes in Modi’s Indian Ocean yatra

Amid the unfolding great game in the Indian Ocean and China’s increased assertiveness in the region, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads on a three-nation diplomatic odyssey to key littoral states, including Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

It’s a first of sorts as the Indian prime minister travels to three oceanic neighbours which are bound to India by history, shared culture and extensive defence ties.

Maritime security will be the overarching theme of Mr Modi’s three-nation visit as he seeks to bolster maritime cooperation with the three countries, which are crucial in India’s strategic scheme to secure sea lanes of communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean against attacks by pirates and terrorists.

The prime minister’s outreach to the country’s Indian Ocean neighbours will be closely watched in the region. Beijing will be specially watching the outcomes emerging from these summit meetings as it has relentlessly expanded its economic ties and influence in the Indian Ocean littoral countries New Delhi thinks to be falling in its sphere of influence.

But as Indian diplomats point out, India is not in a containment game, but is only looking to project the Indian Ocean as zone of peace and an ocean of opportunity through a closer web of economic and transport connectivity projects.

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