Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka on Sunday on his way back home after his trip to Maldives. This was Modi’s first official foreign tour since his re-election last month. He is the first world leader to visit the island nation after the Easter Sunday serial blasts in April.
The prime minister was received by Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo. “Happy to be back in Sri Lanka, my third visit to this beautiful island in four years,” Modi said on Twitter. “Share the warmth shown by the people of SL [Sri Lanka] in equal measure. India never forgets her friends when they are in need. Deeply touched by the ceremonial welcome.”
Modi started his visit by paying respects at the St Anthony’s shrine in Kochchikade, one of the sites of the Easter Sunday attacks in April. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims and the injured,” Modi tweeted. “I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again. Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”
Then, Modi met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who had invited him to the island nation after his swearing-in ceremony on May 30. Sirisena gifted the prime minister a statue of Gautama Buddha.
“Met President Maithripala Sirisena, our second meeting in 10 days,” Modi tweeted. “President Sirisena and I agreed that terrorism is a joint threat that needs collective and focussed action. Reiterated India’s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future.”
The prime minister also held talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and assured him of India’s full support to strengthen bilateral development partnership, including through “people-oriented projects in Sri Lanka”. Modi also met former president and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, and a Tamil National Alliance delegation led by R Sampanthan.
In an address to the Indian diaspora in Sri Lanka, Modi credited Indian expatriates for strengthening India’s position in the world. “Wherever I go, am told about the successes and accomplishments of the Indian diaspora,” he added. “We have achieved a lot in the last five years and much more has to be done in the coming years. No stone will be left unturned to fulfil people’s aspirations.”
Before leaving for India, the prime minister said he had a short but fruitful visit to the island nation. “Sri Lanka has a special place in our hearts,” he tweeted. “I assure my sisters and brothers of Sri Lanka that India will always be there with you and support your nation’s progress. Thank you for the memorable welcome and hospitality.”
Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka came at a time when the island nation is in a crisis following the suicide attacks in April. Sri Lanka has been on alert since the terror attacks in which over 250 people were killed. It has affected the country’s tourism sector and bilateral relations.
Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka is important as it is a sign of solidarity, said Austin Fernando, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India.
In Maldives, Modi said said state-sponsored terrorism is the biggest danger of our times that needs to be tackled. “Terrorism is the great challenge of our time,” he said in his address. “The terrorists neither have their own banks nor do they have a factory of arms. Yet they never run short of money or arms. Where do they find it all? Who gives them these perks? State-sponsored terrorism remains the biggest threat.”