The newly-elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in India, on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday, November 27. The maiden overseas visit will see the two close neighbours seek to strengthen ties. A ceremonial reception will be held in Rashtrapati Bhawan in his honour on Friday, November 29.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa.Reuters

President Gotabaya is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi during his visit. Secretary to the Sri Lankan President P.B. Jayasundara, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, President's advisor Lalith Weerathunge and President's private secretary Sugeeshwara Bandara will accompany the President during the visit.

The two-day official visit will see the two leaders discuss:

  • Regional security.
  • Peace.
  • Economic development.

India-Srilanka relations

India had sent External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Colombo soon after the election of Gotabaya as president, during which he met the new Lankan President and extended him an invite to visit India, which he accepted. Modi, in his congratulatory message, had reiterated India's commitment to continue to work with the government of Sri Lanka to strengthen ties.

The Sri Lankan President who arrives on Thursday evening will be called on by External Affairs Minister Jaishankar on Friday morning at the ITC Maurya. After a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Gotabaya and Modi will hold talks at noon. In the evening he will call on President Kovind. On Saturday the Sri Lankan President will attend events in Delhi and leave in the evening.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during Rashtriya Ekta Diwas celebrations on the 144th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, at Statue of Unity in Kevadiya, Gujarat on Oct 31, 2019.IANS/PIB

Gotabaya's India visit comes as High Commissioner of India Taranjit Singh Sandhu termed the recently concluded presidential election in Sri Lanka as "a festival of democracy". Delivering the Lalith Athulathmudali Commemoration Freedom Speech in Colombo, Sandhu said the high-level exchanges underlined the special nature of India-Sri Lanka ties.

Cooperation between India-Sri Lanka in defence & security

He highlighted the strong cooperation between India and Sri Lanka in the field of defence and security, and development partnership. He emphasised that India could offer more in these fields depending on Sri Lanka's own requirements. The High Commissioner noted that India and Sri Lanka have a lot to offer to each other, and to the world.

Gotabaya, who is perceived as pro-China, has in a statement said his government will maintain "equidistant and cordial relations with all countries". "As a policy, we will maintain an equidistant and yet, cordial relations with all countries and remain neutral in the power struggles amongst nations. I also appeal to all global leaders, to respect the sovereignty and unitary status of Sri Lanka," he said.

(With inputs from wires)