Jaffna, March 14: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit to Jaffna on saturday, becoming the first incumbent to visit Sri Lanka's Tamil heartland, a day after requesting greater autonomy for the island-nation's biggest minority after decades of ethnic war.
Modi will launch construction of a cultural centre and hand over houses to 50,000 families who suffered losses during the ethnic war. The Indian prime minister is only the second foreign leader to visit violence-hit region after British Prime Minister David Cameron who went there during the Commonwealth Summit in 2013.
Modi sympathised with Sri Lanka during his speech, saying it had lived through decades of tragic violence and conflict. The ethnic war came to an end with the death of LTTE leader Prabhakaran in May 2009. Modi praised the Sri Lankans saying they had successfully defeated terrorism and now have a historic opportunity to win hearts across the social spectrum.
Modi also suggested the Sinhalese-dominated parliament that the idea of "cooperative federalism" worked well in India and it could be a model for the island nation as well.
His brief visit is seen as hugely symbolic, particularly after he called on the majority-Sinhalese government to fully implement a 1987 constitutional provision on greater autonomy.
Sri Lanka saw a change of guard in January when Maithripala Sirisena defeated two-term president Mahinda Rajapaksa and promised ethnic reconciliation and probe into alleged war crimes committed by security forces during Rajapaks's time. Analysts also believed that the change of guard meant better days were ahead in India-Sri Lanka relations.