Ajit Doval to visit Colombo on November 27

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval will be in Colombo on Friday for trilateral discussions among India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi will also travel to Colombo, while the Sri Lankan side will be represented at the highest levels by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror reported on Thursday.

This is Mr. Doval’s second official visit to Sri Lanka this year. He was here in January — on the heels of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resounding election victory last year and New Delhi visit soon after — and held discussions on strengthening military ties and countering a “debt trap”, with the Sri Lankan leadership.

There is no official information yet on whether Mr. Doval will hold separate bilateral meetings with either partners, but Friday’s scheduled meeting of the Indian Ocean neighbours marks the resumon of NSA-level trilateral Maritime Security Cooperation talks after six years.

The last such discussion was held in New Delhi in March 2014, and the Sri Lankan side was represented by Mr. Rajapaksa, who was then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

The initiative began in 2011 and top officials met regularly until New Delhi’s relations with the former Abdulla Yameen administration in Male deteriorated, according to diplomatic sources. New Delhi was waiting for the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections – they were held in August and reaffirmed the Rajapaksas’ electoral appeal – to revive the trilateral talks, sources said.

Sources in Colombo said matters of shared interest and concern are likely to be taken up for discussion. Significantly, the meeting comes months after the Maldives signed a defence deal with the US, and more recently, received a Japanese grant to strengthen its coastguard.

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Mr. Doval’s visit also comes in a series of visits by top foreign officials to Colombo, first by a high-powered Chinese delegation early in October, followed by that of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late last month amid a persisting second wave of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka. The visiting delegations, Colombo maintained, were within a “travel bubble”, and “followed all health protocols”.

Ajit Doval to visit Colombo on November 27