By Pankaj Yadav
NEW DELHI, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday left for his maiden overseas visit, after beginning his second consecutive term last month, to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
After staying overnight in the Maldivian archipelago, Modi will have a stopover in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo on Sunday on his way back home.
In his departure statement, Modi said his visits to the two island nations will further strengthen India's close and cordial ties with its maritime neighbors.
In his Saturday's statement, Modi outlined his purpose of visiting the Maldives as further deepening "our multifaceted partnership," and with regard to Sri Lanka it was to express "our solidarity with the government and the people of Sri Lanka in the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks there last Easter on April 21."
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena were among the eight leaders whom Modi had invited for his swearing-in ceremony on May 31.
This would be the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to the Maldives after 2011, which is expected to explore ways to expand cooperation in a range of areas, including defence and security, said India's External Affairs Ministry.
Sports also figures in the arena of India-Maldives bilateral ties, even as India will be helping the Maldives in raising a cricket team, and also exploring possibilities of building an international class cricket stadium.
"They have requested for a coaching program for young Maldivian players, both men and women," India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale told media earlier this week.
In Male, Modi is also scheduled to address a joint session of the Maldivian parliament. Talks would also be held between the two sides over a number of developmental projects that are under consideration, including starting a ferry service from India's southern city of Kochi (in Kerala state) to the Maldives.
In Sri Lanka, Modi would be the first prime minister to pay a visit in the aftermath of the April 21 serial bombings that claimed more than 250 lives and injured many others.