Values to live by

PM Modi’s call for inclusiveness in the Maldives and Sri Lanka is relevant in India too

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Male this month, his first trip abroad after his re-election, he delivered a speech rich in meaningful metaphors to the Maldivian Parliament. He referred to the ties that bind India to the Maldives, and which could be extended to other maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean as well. Pointing out that the waves that wash the Indian shores are the same as those that reach the shores of the Maldivian island chain, Mr. Modi called them “messengers” of peace, friendship and trust that exist between the two countries. Going beyond geographical proximity, the speech spelt out common interests in maritime cooperation, democracy, pluralism, climate change, and in battling the twin scourges of terrorism and radicalisation. The agreements announced during the visit followed these themes as well: including MoUs on hydrography cooperation and sharing ‘white shipping’ information, and India’s decision to fund a conservation project for Male’s Friday Mosque built with coral in 1658. The Prime Minister expressed a resolve for the common fight against terrorism and radicalisation, which he called the “litmus test for today’s leadership”, and said “state sponsorship of terrorism” remains the biggest threat to all humanity today. On his next stop, for a few hours in Colombo, he spelt out the same message, making a detour after landing to visit the St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, one of the sites of the Easter Sunday terror attacks that left more than 250 dead.

Mr. Modi’s twin visits underlined several initiatives that he had promoted in his first tenure, including his commitment to “Neighbourhood First” and “Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)” for the Indian Ocean Region. Going forward, it is necessary to ensure that these themes receive constant attention through steady communication, and that relations are not allowed to fray as they did in the first few years of that tenure. The next imperative is the delivery of all projects that India has committed to, on time and within the budgets estimated, an area where India’s reputation has suffered in the past. Finally, Mr. Modi chose to speak in Male about two important liberal values as common causes: democracy, which he called the Maldives a “glowing example of”, and inclusiveness. He repeated his motto, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Vishwas (together with all, for the development of all and with the trust of all), and his outreach to the mosque in the Maldives and the church in Sri Lanka reinforced the words. These words must be buttressed by the power of example, as India’s neighbours will see whether the same values that India hopes to see in its neighbourhood are implemented within the country.

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