Terrorism is a joint threat: Narendra Modi

India, Sri Lanka call for collective and focussed action to counter it

June 09, 2019 04:11 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 08:43 am IST - Colombo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a meeting in Colombo on June 9, 2019. Twitter/@MaithripalaS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a meeting in Colombo on June 9, 2019. Twitter/@MaithripalaS

In a visit spanning barely five hours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with Sri Lanka’s top leadership – both in government and Opposition in a string of short meetings in Colombo on Sunday. The focus in most of the interactions, sources said, was cooperation in economic initiatives, in countering terrorism. 

Even as he wound up his ‘solidarity visit’, Mr. Modi tweeted that he had a “short but immensely fruitful” visit to the island. 

Mr. Modi, who was here on President Maithripala Sirisena’s invitation, is the first foreign head of government to visit the island, after the ghastly Easter terror attacks that killed over 250 people. 

The Indian Prime Minister visited St. Anthony’s church in Colombo and paid respects to those who died in the April 21 bombings.

“Since both Sri Lanka and India have been victims of terrorism, both the leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and decided to step up cooperation in this critical area,” a statement from President Sirisena’s media division said.

On his meeting with President Sirisena, Mr. Modi said it was their second meeting in 10 days. “President Sirisena and I agreed that terrorism is a joint threat that needs collective and focussed action. Reiterated India’s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future,” he said in a tweet.

After Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe received his Indian counterpart at the Bandaranaike International Airport — President Sirisena accorded him a ceremonial welcome, with a guard of honour and a 19-gun salute. President Sirisena escorted Mr. Modi in, holding an umbrella for him as sudden showers struck Colombo. He threw a special banquet for his guest and presented him with a replica of the ‘Samadhi Buddha Statue’, hand-carved in white teak. 

“Thank you @narendramodi, for your brief, but highly productive visit to our country today, thus proving you are a true friend of ours. I highly appreciate and value your kind gesture, support and cooperation extended to Sri Lanka,” the President tweeted. 

Mr. Wickremesinghe, tweeting on Mr.Modi’s visit, said he looked forward to holding discussions including on increasing multi-lateral investment projects and collaboration in counter-terror actions.

This is PM Modi’s third visit to Sri Lanka, after earlier trips in March 2015 and May 2017. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were part of Mr. Modi’s delegation to Sri Lanka on Sunday, as they returned from the Maldives.

Former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa called on Mr. Modi at India House, the official resident of the Indian envoy in Colombo. “It was a warm and cordial meeting,” said Namal Rajapaksa, a legislator and son of Mr. Rajapaksa, who was also present at the meeting. “My father congratulated Mr. Modi on his election win and emphasised that stability at the Centre in India was good not just for India, but for the entire region.” Further, Mr. Rajapaksa told Mr. Modi that India should lead the region not just in socio-economic growth, but also in counter-terrorism, according the young Hambantota MP.

Mr. Modi met a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), led by senior politician R. Sampanthan, representing the war-affected Tamil minority from the island’s north and east. According to sources, the Tamil leadership emphasised that India urge the Sri Lankan government to frame a new Constitution, as had been promised by Mr. Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe, when their coalition came to power in 2015.

India has historically been one of the arbiters for a political solution to Sri Lanka’s Tamil question. Till date the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 remains a key document that speaks of substantive power devolution to the provinces.

According to TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran who attended the meeting, Mr. Modi assured the Tamil leaders that “India was conscious” of their demand. Further, he told them that he looked forward to meeting them soon in New Delhi, for a discussion on India’s possible role in nudging the Sri Lankan leadership to frame a new Constitution.

Indian community

Later, shifting gears from diplomacy to domestic politics, Mr. Modi addressed Colombo-based Indian community and thanked the people of India for a big mandate. “We achieved a lot in last five years…much more has to be done in the coming years,” he said to thundering applause, and urged Sri Lanka-based Indians to help strengthen bilateral ties.

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