In his first visit to Sri Lanka as External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar said Tuesday that the island nation’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will visit India on November 29.
Jaishankar’s two-day visit comes a day after Gotabaya, the former Sri Lankan defence secretary and younger brother of ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was sworn in as President after winning the national elections with around 52 per cent votes.
Jaishankar confirmed on Twitter that Gotabaya has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit India. He described his meeting with Gotabaya as “warm” and said that he had conveyed Modi’s “message of a partnership for shared peace, progress, prosperity & security”.
Jaishankar wrote that he was “confident” that bilateral relations under Gotabaya’s leadership “would reach greater heights”.
Explained: The new President Rajapaksa
On Monday, The Indian Express reported that the Rajapaksa camp, which was perceived to have been close to China, has reached out to India this time. Officially, though, Gotabaya has said that his country will “maintain an equidistant and yet, cordial relations with all countries”.
Prime Minister Modi, meanwhile, congratulated Gotabaya for winning the polls and said he looks forward to “working closely” for “deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries”.
Thanking Modi, Gotabaya posted: “Our two nations are bound by history and common beliefs and I look forward to strengthening our friendship and meeting you in the near future.”
On November 17, hours after the election results were confirmed, Modi had congratulated Gotabaya over telephone. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, the Prime Minister “reiterated India’s commitment to continue to work with the Government of Sri Lanka” to further bilateral ties. In response, it said, Rajapaksa “expressed his readiness to work with India very closely to ensure development and security”.
Gotabaya, 70, will lead Sri Lanka for five years after the ruling UNP’s candidate Sajith Premadasa conceded the poll, marking the return of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty. Gotabaya will succeed President Maithripala Sirisena who did not seek a second term.