Amid China’s foray in Maldives, US sends Richard Verma to India & Male

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Richard Verma will be visiting India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives at a time when China is making a bid to assert its influence in Male.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, February 17: Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard R. Verma will travel to India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka on February 18-23, said the State Department. It stated that the visit is aimed at strengthening the “United States’ cooperation with each of these key Indo-Pacific partners”. 

The State Department also stated that “shortly following the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, his trip will reaffirm the United States’ enduring commitment to a free, open, secure, and prosperous region. The U.S.-India partnership advances security throughout the region and the world”.

Verma will be visiting India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives at a time when China is making a bid to assert its influence in Male. Also, the visit may invite attention as Maldivian President Mohammed Muizzu is seeking ouster of the Indian military presence from the Indian Ocean archipelagos. In pushing his “India Out campaign”, Muizzu is rolling out red-carpet for China.

With Maldives becoming the weak link in the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US, Verma may be expected to assert on the Maldivian leadership to not let its waters become the backyard of China. Incidentally, Xi Jinping, China’s President, had given a rousing reception to Muizzu during his first official visit abroad. The diplomatic circle is keeping a close watch on Maldives holding the Chinese flags aloft after Beijing has been pushed back by Sri Lanka after the island nation was left in the lurch by the Communist nation on debt restructuring.

Ahead of the visit of Verma to South Asia, the US secretary of State, Antony Blinken, held a crucial discussion with the External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, on issues, including the Indo-Pacific and ensuring maritime security. Incidentally, the US looks upon India for maritime security in the Indian Ocean, but the diplomatic circle is abuzz with the frequent Chinese surveillance missions around Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Blinken in a message on the social media platform X said: “At the Munich Security Conference, Jaishankar and I discussed our cooperation on maritime security in the Red Sea and ongoing efforts to secure lasting peace and security in the Middle East.”

Jaishankar also acknowledged the meeting on the sidelines of the key security conference in Munich, Germany. He wrote on X, saying “Great to meet my friend Blinken this afternoon on security council sidelines. Our talk centered on the situation in West Asia, Ukraine and Indo-Pacific. Reviewed the continuing progress in our bilateral ties.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department said that “Verma while in New Delhi will meet with senior government officials, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to advance the U.S.-Indian global strategic partnership on a full range of issues, including economic development, security, and technology.”

It further stated that “Verma will travel to Malé to meet with senior officials and advance shared priorities in increasing economic cooperation and promoting maritime security.  The Deputy Secretary will also tour the planned office space for a new U.S. Embassy in Malé, which will help further increase people-to-people ties between the United States and Maldives”.

Verma in Colombo, Sri Lanka, will review “U.S.-Sri Lankan defense and maritime security cooperation”, said the statement, adding: “The Deputy Secretary will visit the Port of Colombo’s West Container Terminal, where the United States is supporting Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic recovery through $553 million in financing to transform Colombo into a regional shipping hub.  Finally, he will meet with civil society leaders to hear their perspective on democratic governance in Sri Lanka and with government officials to voice U.S. support for the protection of free speech and open discourse.”

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