AsiaIndiaSouthern AsiaSri Lanka

PM Modi says Sirisena will promote reconciliation


New Delhi, Jan 19New Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will promote reconciliation in his island nation with a vision for inclusiveness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday.

Describing Sri Lanka as “a truly close neighbour and friend”, Modi offered New Delhi’s continued support and partnership to Colombo and the Sri Lankan people in “realising their aspirations”.

The prime minister made the observations when Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera called on him, an official statement said.

Samaraweera is on his first foreign trip after Sirisena took power Jan 9. He met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj Sunday.

Modi admired Sirisena’s vision of a “truly Sri Lankan government”, inclusive of all voices, and the initial steps taken by the new government for political reconciliation and inclusiveness.

Modi also congratulated Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wikramasinghe for the former’s impressive victory in the Jan 8 presidential polls which, according to him, was “a vote for unity and change in Sri Lanka”.

Ending a decade of rule by his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sirisena stormed to power mainly on the strength of votes he garnered from Muslims and Tamils as well as his own strongholds in Sinhalese areas.

Thanking Sirisena for accepting his invitation to visit India, Modi said he looked forward to receiving him at an early date. Modi also accepted an invite to Colombo.

Samaraweera, who met Sushma Swaraj Sunday, discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation and reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka.

Indian development partnership projects in Sri Lanka and issues related to the alleged trespassing of Indian fishermen into Sri Lankan waters were also discussed Sunday.

At the Sushma Swaraj-Samaraweera meeting that lasted three hours, New Delhi agreed to work “closely and extensively” with Colombo.

An external affairs ministry statement said the two ministers “had extremely cordial, positive and substantive discussion”, covering the entire expanse of the “close and friendly (bilateral) relations”.

Samaraweera indicated that his choice of New Delhi as his first destination “reflects the priority the new Sri Lankan government gives to relations between our two countries”.

India and Sri Lanka agreed to re-engage on the issue of repatriation of Tamil refugees currently in India. A meeting of officials on this will be held later this month.

They also agreed to resolve the dragging row involving Indian fishermen.

Colombo has accused fishermen mainly from Tamil Nadu of fishing in Sri Lankan waters, affecting the earnings of its own fishermen. The bitter row has often led to clashes in the sea and even deaths.

India has repeatedly called for a political solution to issues dealing with the Tamil minority in the island nation.

The government change in Colombo is widely expected to improve relations between India and Sri Lanka that had become strained over the latter’s increasing military ties with China.

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