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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2615

Sri Lanka’s new President Sirisena to visit India soon!

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

According to PTI, Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena will visit India later this month and meet Indian leaders to discuss bilateral issues.

Sirisena, who dethroned Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter presidential poll on January 9, has already indicated that he wants to have closer relations with India. It could be Sirisena's first official foreign visit after assuming office.

Reports suggest President Maithripala Sirisena is slated to undertake a two-day official visit to India on February 16. The dates were agreed upon during consultations between Colombo and New Delhi through diplomatic channels.

A reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka is also planned from March 13-15. During his visit, plans are also underway for Modi to travel to the northern Tamil town of Jaffna to know the situation there.

Already Sri Lanka and India have undertaken the initial steps to reset the bilateral relations that have soured following the Rajapaksa’s killing the Tamils in large numbers in committing war crimes in Tamil dominated areas.

Rajapaksa’s efforts to revive the traditional ties with New Delhi did not yield the expected results. And the relations got worse when he allotted he costly port projects to China by side-tracking Indian attempts to secure the deals.

Soon after President Maithripala Sirisena assumed office his team began refocusing on Lanka-India relations as part of his overall policy of alignment with India. New Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited India on his first foreign trip soon after assuming charge last month during which he held talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj. During Samaraweera's visit, the two countries agreed to re-engage on repatriation of refugees from India as both sides held substantive talks on a raft of crucial matters including the political reconciliation process and the sticky fishermen issue.

Meanwhile, an Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee said it would submit a report to the Centre on the problems faced by fishermen, including attacks allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, to enable the Indian External Affairs Ministry to find a diplomatic solution to the vexed issue. Committee Chairman Dr E M Sudarsana Nachiappan told reporters that its members visited Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu and met affected fishermen. We will submit a report to the Centre on problems faced by the fishermen, including attacks by Sri Lankan Navy, to enable the External Affairs Ministry find a diplomatic solution to the problem. He said the committee also visited the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre at Madras High Court campus and held discussions with officials on this issue, besides also on sending Sri Lankan refugees back to the island nation and also the functioning of legal services in the state. Referring to the Tamil Nadu government’s opposition to sending refugees back to Sri Lanka, Natchiappan noted that the Chief Minister has already written to the Centre, stating that it would not be done till they received a message that Sri Lankan Tamils are able to live peacefully in Sri Lanka.

The election of Maithripala Sirisena as the Sri Lankan President has offered hope to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and they are able to move freely without the Army’s interruption, said K. Velayutham, Sri Lankan Minister of State for Plantation and Industry. Talking to reporters after meeting DMK leader M. Karunanidhi in Chennai on Sunday, he said he had explained the situation after change in leadership and efforts were on to withdraw the Army from the Tamil areas and camps. Velaytham said one of the priorities of the new government in Colombo was to rehabilitate the internally displaced people and those who were in the camps.

The Sri Lankan government is reportedly ready to provide all support to those Tamils who are willing to return. “At the same time we do not want to force anyone to come to Sri Lanka,” he said. To a question on the international inquiry against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his alleged war crimes, he said an inquiry was already being conducted in Geneva. “Since Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation, we are for an internal inquiry,” he said.

Erstwhile NDA ally MDMK today urged the Indian Centre not to go ahead with the proposal for sending back Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to their country, claiming that the move is aimed at preventing action against the island nation government in the UN Human Rights Council. MDMK urges India to withdraw it proposal to send the refugees to their home towns in Sri Lanka,” the Vaiko-led party said in a resolution at its general council meeting in Madras.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam last week urged the Centre to defer the inter-ministerial meeting to discuss repatriation of Lankan Tamil refugees as conditions in Sri Lanka’s northeast were not conducive for them to return.

Reports of new Sri Lankan President’s visit to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit Sri Lanka in March are only to create a situation favourable to the Sri Lankan government in the Human Rights Council.

Hopefully, the visits of President Maithripala Sirisena to India and Premier Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka would do great work in ensuring Indian origin Tamils of free life and they could to live in Sri Lanka in peace and Tamil fishermen are allowed to fishing in demarcated sea zones.

- Asian Tribune -

 President Maithripala Sirisena
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