Ready to work very closely with new Sri Lankan government: India
New Delhi, Nov 21: India on Thursday said it was looking forward to work closely with the new Sri Lankan government and hoped that it would be able to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil community in the island nation. There have been apprehensions among the minority Tamil and Muslim communities about the new government's policies towards them after Sri Lanka's controversial Rajapaksa clan tightened its grip over the country.
"We look forward to working closely with the Sri Lankan government for deepening our relations and for the peace, prosperity and security of the region," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told a media briefing.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary who is credited with ending the country's long civil war, was sworn in as the island nation's new president three days ago.
On Thursday, Gotabaya Rajapaksa sworn in his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister. Reaching out to the new president, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar travelled to Colombo on Tuesday. After his meeting with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Jaishankar said the newly-elected president will visit India later this month at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"The external affairs minister visited Colombo as a special envoy of the prime minister a few days ago to convey the PM's greetings to the newly elected president of Sri Lanka," Kumar said. "The external affairs minister delivered PM's letter of congratulations and extended an invitation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to visit India. He has accepted the invitation and will be on a state visit to India on November 29-30," he said.
Kumar said during his meeting with President Rajapaksa, Jaishankar conveyed India's expectation that the Sri Lankan government will fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil community. "The EAM conveyed to President Rajapaksa India's expectation that the Sri Lankan government will take forward the process of national reconciliation to arrive at a solution that meets the aspirations of the Tamil community for equality, justice, peace and dignity," Kumar said.
The MEA spokesperson also referred to Gotabaya Rajapaksa's statement affirming that he will be the president of all Sri Lankans irrespective of their racial or religious identity and without creating a distinction on whether they voted for him or not. "The president also stated that he is committed to ensuring the development of the northern and eastern provinces and considers India a valued partner towards this endeavour," said Kumar.
The spokesperson said India's multi-faceted relationship with Sri Lanka stands on its own footing and that it is rooted in its geographical proximity and historical connections. "Our relations with Sri Lanka, or for that matter with any neighbouring country, are independent of our relations with third countries," he said. There was a perception that the Rajapaksa clan is close to China as Beijing's influence over Sri Lanka had increased during Mahinda Rajapaksa's presidentship from 2005-2015. He was also premier of the country for a brief period in 2018.