Colombo: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday called on Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on the first day of her trip to set the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country, the first bilateral tour by an Indian premier in over 25 years.
During the meeting, Sirisena said that Sri Lanka was preparing for Modi’s visit next week. He assured Swaraj that his government is committed to strengthening ties with India.
Sirisena also told Swaraj that his country was in the process of taking along all communities. Recalling the strong support India has extended to Lanka over the years, Sirisena said he was looking forward to similar support in international arena too.
Swaraj, who arrived here on a two-day trip, was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Ajith P Perera at the airport. She had last visited Lanka in 2012 as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
During her two-day stay, Swaraj will also call on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and hold talks with her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera.
Samaraweera hosted a dinner for Swaraj on Friday night. Modi’s visit from March 13-14 will be the first bilateral trip by an Indian prime minister since Rajiv Gandhi visited the island in 1987 to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord.
Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to travel to war-ravaged Jaffna in Tamil-dominated Northern Province and Trincomalee in the Eastern Province. He will address the Sri Lanka Parliament and is scheduled to travel to Anuradhapura and Kandy.
Modi’s visit will be a return visit after Sirisena’s visit to New Delhi last month that saw the two countries sign a civil nuclear pact. It was Sirisena’s first overseas visit since becoming president in January.
India-Sri Lanka relations had seen tensions during last few years of the rule of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was voted out of power, as China had expanded its footprint in the country by building ports, highways and participating in other infrastructure projects.