COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was set to depart for India — his first overseas trip — on Thursday.
“President Rajapaksa will reach New Delhi on Thursday evening and a ceremonial reception will be held in Rashtrapati Bhawan in his honor on Friday. That same day he will hold talks with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and also call on President Ram Nath Kovind,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Modi invited Rajapakssa to visit India shortly after his win in the Sri Lankan presidential elections. He is traveling with Presidential Secretary P.B. Jayasundara, Secretary to the Foreign Ministry Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary to the Treasury S. R. Attygalle, Presidential Advisor Lalith Weeratunga, and the president’s personal secretary Sugeeshwara Bandara.
In his first media interview as president, Rajapaksa recently said: “We understand the importance of Indian concerns. We cannot engage in any activity which will threaten the security of India. That we know. We are in the region and India is a big power, is a big country.”
During the same interview, Rajapaksa further stressed that Sri Lanka considers India to be a valuable potential ally.
“We will not do anything that will harm (India’s) security interests and I will request them to help us in investments in many fields and also help us in education, that’s very important, and also the development of technology,” he said. “I think the present Indian government, (under) Prime Minister Modi, has changed how (it) approaches the (region).”
Meanwhile, “Mitra Shakthi VII” — a joint military exercise between India and Sri Lanka — will commence in the Indian town of Pune on Sunday.