India first port of call for new Lanka president

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 11, 2015 22:17 IST

In an indication of improving ties between the two countries, newly-elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will make his first state visit abroad to India. “Prime Minister Modi invited our President to come to India first. He proposes to go next month,” said Rajitha Senaratne, Sirisena’s spokesman and senior politician.

While the new dispensation is expected to move forward with the devolution of power to Tamil-dominated regions, New Delhi will have to contend with a neighbour with a decisive Western influence. The prospect, however, is not as worrying as Lanka’s proximity to China under Mahinda Rajapaksa who suffered a shock defeat in Thursday’s elections.

New Delhi watched the polls from a distance as a neutral partner perhaps due to the ruling BJP’s closeness to Rajapaksa who, during the campaign, called India a relative and China a friend.

In a congratulatory call Friday, Modi hoped for “genuine reconciliation” in the island nation — a rallying point for ethnic Tamils who voted in huge numbers for Sirisena’s rainbow coalition also supported by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

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