In his maiden foreign trip after assuming office, Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena arrived here Sunday on a four-day visit seeking a new beginning in bilateral ties that took a hit during the rule of his predecessor.
63-year-old Sirisena, who had dethroned Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter Presidential poll on January 9, will hold talks with the Indian leadership Monday on the entire gamut of bilateral ties including ways to further enhance cooperation and the peace and reconciliation process in the island nation.
According to presidential advisors, the Lankan president is desirous of making a new beginning in the Indo-Lanka relations after bilateral ties suffered under Rajapaksa over India’s backing to US-moved resolutions at the UN rights body over alleged war crimes. The Rajapaksa regime was also said to have a pro-China tilt.
“We will be making a new beginning with India,” acting government spokesman and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said in Colombo.
Sirisena has already indicated that he wants to have a closer relationship with India and chose it for his first foreign visit.
The Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their talks are likely to deliberate on all major issues such as devolution of power to the Tamil community and the sticky fishermen issue.
India has been hoping that the new Lankan government will develop ties on the “foundation of genuine and effective reconciliation” creating harmony among all sections there.
India has also been pressing for implementation of 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution. The amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 signed between then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lankan President J R Jayewardene envisaged the devolution of powers to the provinces in the midst of the island’s bitter ethnic conflict.
On Monday evening, Sirisena will meet President Pranab Mukherjee who will also host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary.
Sirisena is leading a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Resettlement Minister D M Swaminathan, Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka and Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksha.
Ahead of the visit, the Spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry told reporters in New Delhi that both the countries were looking at “substantive talks” in terms of announcement of agreements and frameworks.
All bilateral matters, including economy, peace and Sri Lankan reconciliation process, which is an important issue, will be discussed during Sirisena’s visit, he said.
Samaraweera had visited India in January on his first foreign trip soon after assuming charge during which he held talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
In the meeting between Swaraj and Samaraweera, both sides agreed to re-engage on repatriation of refugees from India, besides holding talks on a raft of crucial issues, including political reconciliation process and the sticky fishermen issue.
The Sri Lankan president will travel to Buddhist pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya and the temple in Tirupati on February 17 before returning the next day.