In a further sign of his commitment to warmer ties between New Delhi and Colombo, Sri Lanka’s newly elected president Mathripala Sirisena will visit India on February 16. This will be his first visit outside the country after taking charge in early January.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Colombo between March 13 and 15.
The Sunday Times of Colombo reported the dates, which neither government has officially announced yet.
Modi had invited Sirisena to visit India during his congratulatory phone call right after the elections.
Sirisena had accepted the invite and indicated that he would make the visit within the first 100 days of taking charge.
Sirisena’s visit comes soon after his foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera visited India. He held ‘cordial, positive and substantive’ discussions with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. Both sides had then agreed to initiate the process of repatriation of refugees, deal with the issue of fishermen in a ‘humane manner’, and hold a meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission soon.
Samaraweera had also briefed the Indian side on the new government’s approach to the Tamil issue and constitutional reform.
India has been enthused by Sri Lanka’s efforts to reach out to Tamil minorities and the issue will figure prominently in the Sirisena-Modi talks.
India was increasingly uncomfortable with the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime’s efforts to develop deeper ties with China, as well as its reluctance to devolve power to the Tamil-majority North after the war.