Wednesday 20 November 2019 5:02 AM UTC
COLOMBO Nov 20: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president on Monday, has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit India next week, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said after meeting the Lankan president this evening in Colombo.
On Sunday, PM Modi had invited Mr Rajapaksa to visit India as his first official foreign tour. Mr Rajapaksa will visit India on November 29, Mr Jaishankar tweeted.
The foreign minister arrived in Colombo on an unannounced visit as part of India’s outreach to the new Lankan President, and said he was “confident that under Mr Rajapaksa’s leadership, India-Sri Lanka relations would reach greater heights.”
“A warm meeting with Sri Lanka President @GotabayaR. Conveyed PM @narendramodi’s message of a partnership for shared peace, progress, prosperity & security. Confident that under his leadership, #IndiaSriLanka relations would reach greater heights,” the foreign minister tweeted.
Mr Rajapaksa is credited with helping end Sri Lanka’s long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during his tenure as the defence secretary.
Mr Rajapaksa is admired by the Sinhalese majority and by the powerful Buddhist clergy for directing security forces to crush Tamil separatists and end a 37-year separatist war in May 2009 with his brother.
The return of the Rajapaksa clan to power could be a cause of concern for India, given Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tilt towards China.
When Mahinda Rajapaksa was president, two Chinese submarines were allowed to dock in Sri Lanka without informing India. Another worry for India could be the delegation of powers to the Tamil ethnic minorities in the north and east.
On Monday, in a measured speech, Mr Rajapaksa had said that Sri Lanka will maintain friendly ties with all nations and remain neutral in matters involving international powers so as to stay out of conflicts.
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