Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will visit New Delhi early February and meet his counterpart Narendra Modi, his office said.
The PM's media office told The Hindu t hat the dates, delegation and meetings are yet to be firmed up for the visit that also marks Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first visit abroad after he was appointed Prime Minister by his younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi comes about two months after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa went to the Indian capital, following his decisive win in Sri Lanka’s November presidential polls. Last week, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi, in the series of high-level visits from Colombo.
While key bilateral issues — including regional security and the much-discussed development cooperation at the East Container Terminal in Colombo and the Trincomalee oil tank farms — are on the table, his India visit will be closely watched for more reasons.
Addressing a joint press conference during Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit in November, Mr. Modi said that he was confident that Sri Lanka will carry forward the process of reconciliation, “to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil for equality, justice, peace and respect.” In this context, Mr. Modi also referenced the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution — an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who served as President for two terms since 2005, has in the past assured India at least thrice that he would implement the 13th Amendment — which envisages greater power devolution to Provinces including those inhabited by Tamils — and “go beyond it”.
On the other hand, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has promised to “be frank” with New Delhi, has repeatedly emphasised the need for development, not devolution, for the war-hit community.
The Sri Lankan PM’s visit comes at a time when the new government, helmed by the Rajapaksa brothers who have outlined a “neutral foreign policy”, is engaging with international partners at high levels.
Foreign Minister of China and State Councillor Wang Yi will be in Colombo on January 14 and meet the Sri Lankan President and the PM. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov and the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, also visiting, are scheduled to meet the Sri Lankan leadership.