The Indian media has reported that India will sign a trilateral maritime cooperation agreement with Sri Lanka and the Maldives in a move to counter China’s bid to spread its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean region.

The agreement with Sri Lanka is to be signed this week during National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon’s visit tomorrow. The Deccan Herald has reported that National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon will visit Colombo this week to hold talks with his Sri Lankan and Maldivian counterparts for finalising a framework agreement for maritime cooperation among the three nations.

Sources have told Deccan Herald that the agreement, to be signed during the NSA’s visit to Sri Lanka, will seek to set up a mechanism for trilateral cooperation in maritime security, information sharing, cooperation on search and rescue in the Indian Ocean region, surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zones, collective response to marine oil pollution and capacity building through training and exercises. Menon will also call on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa during his visit to Colombo.

New Delhi’s move to sign a trilateral maritime cooperation agreement with Colombo and Male comes in the backdrop of China’s growing influence over Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Negotiation for the MoU started in 2011, but gained momentum only towards the end of 2012 and early this year.

China set up its embassy in Maldives in 2011 and has since been lobbying hard to get involved in the development of infrastructure in some of the strategically located islands of the archipelagic nation. New Delhi has of late been finding it a bit difficult to maintain its traditional influence on political and economic affairs of Maldives. India has also been concerned over Chinese presence at the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.