How Modi deals with the region to factor in Lanka’s presidential polls

South Asian leaders with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the swearing-in ceremony

President Ranil Wickremesinghe greets Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

pix by pradeep Pathirana 

The year 2024 is seen as an important one for the entire globe. This is because many prominent nations in the world are set to hold their national elections. Accordingly it is envisaged that these polls will shape the globe’s destiny. The situation is the same for South Asia as well with Indian elections just completed and Sri Lanka set to hold presidential elections late this year. 

The Indian elections where Narendra Modi was elected for the third consecutive time as the prime minister is seen as an event which will decide South Asia’s destiny.  The Indian media confirmed this through their interpretation of Modi’s recent swearing-in which took place with the presence of a group of South Asian leaders. 

“Aligning with India’s steadfast commitment to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the ‘SAGAR’ vision, leaders from the neighborhood and Indian Ocean region have been invited as distinguished guests for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Dooradharshan reported. These leaders included heads of State of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Nepal and Bhutan.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Maldivian President  Mohamed Muizzu,  Vice-President of Seychelles Ahmed Afif, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina,  Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth,  Prime Minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay,  accepted the invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

Highlighting the significance of the event, the Indian media which quoted Indian External Affairs Ministry said the visit of the leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his third consecutive term is in keeping with the highest priority accorded by India to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and ‘SAGAR’ vision.”

The leaders also graced a banquet hosted by President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan later during the evening of June 9, 2024.

The guest list was been kept compact with the G7 meeting which was held later in Italy. 

The seating arrangement was for over 8,000 guests who attended the ceremony. The list was prepared and invitation cards were sent.

PM Modi’s invitation to neighboring leaders reflected India’s ongoing efforts to engage with countries in the region. In 2014, he convened leaders from SAARC nations, and in 2019, he invited countries from the BIMSTEC group according to Indian media. 

Significant event 
The Indian media focused especially on the attendance of Maldivian President Muizzu, It was seen as a significant event given the relationship between Maldives and India. 

The fact which the Indian media stressed was visible physically with bill boards of state leaders who attended the swearing-in displayed along the roads in Delhi.

It is not only India which gave importance to the swearing-in of Modi but other nations as well. Media delegations of Bhutan and Bangladesh sent media delegations to cover the event in addition to Sri Lanka itself. 

It looks obvious that Modi during his third term will focus on the region as the Indian media put it. Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar met President Wickremesinghe the day after he was sworn in as a cabinet minister where the duo discussed a state visit of Modi to Sri Lanka. The Indian External Affairs Minister pledged to visit Sri Lanka and did so days later.  Modi is therefore expected to visit Sri Lanka in August this year. 

Another factor that was visible was the sentiments of Indian political leaders in Tamil Nadu. One of the South Indian leaders who was very much interested in meeting the Sri Lankan President was the Secretary Overseas and other Tamil Development Cell of Tamil Nadu State Assembly K. M. Sundaram. It was reported that President Wickremesinghe did meet him for a few minutes but no formal meeting took place because of the tight schedule of the president during his recent visit. 

The overall conclusion one could draw from  Modi’s swearing-in and what could be expected from Modi during his third term is how he would deal with the region by taking global politics into consideration. This would no doubt become a focus of the upcoming Sri Lankan presidential elections.

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