Gotabaya Rajapaksa, newly elected Sri Lankan President, will travel to India on November 29 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday. Jaishankar made the announcement after meeting Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as the country's new President on Monday.
"A warm meeting with Sri Lanka President @GotabayaR. Conveyed PM @narendramodi's message of a partnership for shared peace, progress, prosperity & security. Confident that under his leadership, #IndiaSriLanka relations would reach greater heights," he tweeted after the meeting which came hours after President Rajapaksa assumed the office on Tuesday.
Jaishankar, who arrived in Colombo on a two-day unannounced visit, said President Rajapaksa has accepted Prime Minister Modi's invitation to visit India on November 29.
Rajapaksa stormed to victory in Sri Lanka's presidential elections, the results of which came on Sunday. Modi telephoned Rajapaksa on Sunday to congratulate him on his electoral win and invited him to visit India as his first official foreign tour.
The Lankan leader thanked the prime minister for his good wishes and expressed his readiness to work with India very closely to ensure development and security, the Prime Minister's Office said. Conveying the good wishes on behalf of the people of India and on his own behalf, Modi expressed confidence that under the able leadership of Rajapaksa, the people of Sri Lanka will progress further on the path of peace and prosperity.
Rajapaksa is the younger brother of the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was a colonel in the Sri Lankan Army before leaving it to migrate to the US in 1992. He was until then in the battlefield against the LTTE in the north. He returned to Sri Lanka when older brother Mahinda was named the presidential candidate in 2005. With his brother's victory he was appointed to the powerful position of Secretary to the Defence Ministry.
He is credited with helping end the island nation's long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during his tenure as the defence secretary. In 2006, he survived an assassination attempt carried out by the LTTE with minor injuries.
According to observers, with pro-China Rajapaksa winning the election, the result will have a bearing on India's presence in the Indian Ocean region where Beijing is increasingly making inroads. China, which has acquired Sri Lanka's Hambantota port in 2017 as a debt swap, has been ramping up its ties with the island nation and expanded its naval presence in the Indian Ocean with an established logistics base in Djibouti.
Beijing in July gifted a warship to Sri Lanka, in a growing sign of its deepening military cooperation with the strategically located island nation in the Indian Ocean.
(With PTI inputs)