A top U.S. State department official landed in The Maldives on Saturday, the second such official visit in four months, against the backdrop of increasing radicalisation of its youth.
Mr. Blake Jr. will arrive in Sri Lanka on May 3. He is slated to visit USAID-supported programmes and meet local leaders in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. He was U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lankan between 2006 and 2009.
Earlier, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who is on a whirl-wind visit of the major capitals of Asia and Africa, held discussions with officials and civil society leaders in Maldives on January 28 and 29.
Specific areas raised with the Maldivian government by Mr. Steinberg — who is the acting Secretary of State in Hillary Clinton's absence — included the challenges of economic development, the need to strengthen education and build educational opportunities, as well as the challenge of confronting growing extremism.
In a December 15 telephonic press conference with south Asian journalists, Mr. Blake Jr. said : “It's going to be very important now for I think all of the parties to work together to find common ground and to work to help the interests of the Maldivian people… So it's important, again, I think for all the parties to work together… It's important to set aside a lot of the rancour and again, focus on what is going to benefit the Maldivian people.”
While Maldives remains important on his agenda, Mr. Blake Jr. is expected to engage the Sri Lankan government on issues that have arisen following the publication of the United Nations Secretary-General's expert panel report on the last months of the war.
Though his visit to Mullaitivu is to review a project, he is also expected to be taken around the final theatre of war in the area. News website Daily Mirror quoted a U.S. official as saying Mr. Blake's visit had been planned a month ago and was not linked to the war panel report released on Monday but that it was certain to come up in conversation.