New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's recent visit to Colombo underscores primacy that India accords to Sri Lanka in its 'Neighbourhood First' and SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision policies, the ministry's spokesperson said on Friday.

Addressing a media briefing today, the Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said that a new Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, a nerve centre for Search and Rescue operations at sea established with an Indian grant of USD 6 million from India, was was also jointly commissioned in the virtual ceremony.

"This was his first bilateral visit to any country after being sworn in as External Affairs Minister... His visit underscores India's primacy that we accord to Sri Lanka in a neighbourhood-first policy as also a Sagar vision policy," Jaiswal said.

In response to a question the MEA spokesperson said that Jaishankar called on the Sri Lankan President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as the Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena and they had delegation-level talks in the presence of several Sri Lankan ministers.

"EAM called on the President of Sri Lanka. He also called on the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Dinesh Gunawardena. They had delegation-level talks in which several ministers from the Sri Lankan side were present. President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the EAM handed over 48 houses under the Model Village housing project in Colombo and Trincomalee districts..." said Randhir Jaiswal.

The 106 houses under Phase III of the Indian Housing Project are in Kandy, Matale and Nuwara Eliya Districts.

"Apart from that, the external affairs minister called on the leader of opposition. He also had separate meetings with the former president of Sri Lanka, Mahindra Rajapaksha, and with a broad range of leaders from across the political spectrum and parties. It was a one day visit," said MEA spokesperson.

Jaishankar has visited Sri Lanka five times recently and these visits highlight the importance India places on its relationship with Sri Lanka, the spokesperson said.

"This is the external affairs minister's fifth visit, I would recall, in the recent past. Four times that he visited were in January of 2021, March 2022, January 2023 and October 2023. The series of these visits underscores the kind of importance that we attach to our neighbourly relations with Sri Lanka," said Jaiswal.

Jaishankar official visit to Sri Lanka on June 20 marked the first bilateral visit undertaken by the EAM after his re-appointment. It follows immediately after the visit of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to India on June 9-10 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi- led government following the general elections.

(With Inputs From Agencies)