New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on Tuesday on a three-nation tour of Indian Ocean islands, including a visit to neighbouring Sri Lanka aimed at reinvigorating ties with the new government.

Modi’s first stop will be the Seychelles followed by Mauritius and then Sri Lanka on Friday, where he will travel to the war-torn Tamil heartland of Jaffna, becoming only the second foreign leader to visit the region.

The Prime Minister said India attaches “paramount importance" to strengthening relations with countries in the Indian Ocean region, which is vital for its security and progress.

He expressed confidence that his visits to all the three countries will reinvigorate India’s relations with them in this all-important region “we call home–-the Indian Ocean".

“My visit to the three Indian Ocean Island countries reflects our foreign policy priorities in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood. India attaches paramount importance to strengthening relations with this region, which is vital for India’s security and progress," he said in the statement.

Modi said he was keenly looking forward to the three-nation visit, observing that India had strong, multifaceted and important relationship with each of these countries and that they all occupied a very important place in its foreign policy.

The visit comes a month after Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena made his first foreign trip in office to New Delhi to rebuild ties hit by tensions over growing Chinese influence on the strategically located island.

Modi will also be the second senior foreign dignitary after Pope Francis to meet Sirisena in Sri Lanka following his electoral win in January.

Modi’s Sri Lankan trip signals a marked improvement in relations strained under former president Mahinda Rajapakse, who cultivated close relations with rival China.

China, which has been locked in territorial disputes with many of its neighbours, has built highways, power plants and seaports in all the three countries that Modi is visiting.

PTI contributed to this story.

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