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External Affairs Minister Jaishankar begins five-day trip to Gulf, Seychelles on Tuesday

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. File   | Photo Credit: AP

In a significant outreach to the Gulf states amid the COVID-19 pandemic, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will leave for Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday on a five-day trip during which he will also visit the Seychelles.

Mr. Jaishankar will begin his tour, his first bilateral engagement abroad in months, by paying a condolence visit to the Bahrain government for the death of the Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who passed away earlier this month.

On Wednesday, he will fly to the UAE and meet with his counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In both Manama and Abu Dhabi, Mr. Jaishankar is expected to discuss cooperation on post-COVID-19 economic recovery and in particular, the future of more than 3.3 million Indians expatriates living and working there, given new restrictions announced by both countries.

“Bahrain hosts more than 3,50,000 Indians and both countries have worked together to face the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs about the visit. “EAM will also discuss ways for Indian workers to resume their jobs in UAE in the post-COVID-19 scenario. More than 3 million Indians live and work in UAE,” the statement added.

India has also welcomed the decision by the UAE and Bahrain to normalise relations with Israel in the past few months as a part of the “Abraham Accords” brokered by the outgoing U.S. President, Donald Trump, which is also expected to feature in the talks.

Assomption Island

Mr. Jaishankar’s visit to the Seychelles will follow weeks after elections in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) island, where Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan defeated incumbent President Danny Faure.

Mr. Ramkalawan, who is of Indian origin, has been staunchly opposed to the 2015 India-Seychelles naval agreement to build facilities on Assomption Island, and his election could deal the project a blow.

Mr. Jaishankar had previously visited the islands as Foreign Secretary in January 2018, in an effort to salvage the deal and build consensus for it, but the project has not moved since.

The MEA said the EAM would call on President Ramkalwan and “discuss with him the priorities of the new Government and avenues for further strengthening India-Seychelles bilateral relations”.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 1:21:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/external-affairs-minister-jaishankar-begins-five-day-trip-to-gulf-seychelles-on-tuesday/article33164316.ece

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