President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with Indian State Transport and Highways Minister Dr. V.K. Singh and others after arriving in New Delhi for the start of a two-day State visit
- President Rajapaksa heads to India on first State visit
- Says looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations with India
- Will hold talks with Indian PM Modi today
- India likely to extend debt relief and financial support; over $ 800 m due
- President will push for more Indian investment, seek wider financial support during two-day visit
- Relationship described as “civilisational relationship nurtured through millennia” by Indian MEA
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who arrived in New Delhi last evening on his first State visit since assuming office, will push for more Indian investment and possibly wider financial support for Sri Lanka, while assuring its closest neighbour of continued friendly relations.
Rajapaksa left the country last afternoon on the two-day State visit, accompanied by Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle, and Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga.
President Rajapaksa, who is undertaking the visit on an invitation extended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will meet with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, as well as other Indian dignitaries, during his stay. President Rajapaksa and his delegation were received by India’s State Transport and Highways Minister Dr. V.K. Singh at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India Austin Fernando, and the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu, were also present on the occasion, the President’s Media Unit said.
This morning, President Rajapaksa will lay a wreath at Rajghat, the memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi, before meeting with Prime Minister Modi for bi-lateral talks. He is also expected to have an interaction with the media after the meeting with the Indian Prime Minister around midday.
Before his departure for India, the President through his official twitter handle @GotabayaR said he was “looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations with Shri @narendramodi and Govt of India.”
Official Spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs India Raveesh Kumar underscored the importance of the visit by President Rajapaksa, calling the relationship between the two countries a “civilisational relationship nurtured through millennia.”
“President @GotabayaR on his first overseas visit since assuming office arrives in India on a State visit at PM @narendramodi’s invitation, demonstrating the strength & dynamism of India-Lanka relations,” Kumar said through the official Twitter handle @MEAIndia.
The Daily FT learns that President Rajapaksa would use the visit to request for more Indian investment in the country in several sectors, particularly in the field of technology. It is also possible that talks will focus on extending wider financial assistance to Sri Lanka, as it seeks to spur sluggish growth, attract investment, and repay significant debt over the next few years.
Last year Sri Lanka repaid nearly $ 80 million of Indian debt (around Rs. 14 billion) and and as at end 2018 had Rs. 152 billion (or around $ 840 million) as liability.
Last week, in an interview with BharatShakti Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, the President said he would also use the visit to “reassure the Indian government that we will work with India as a friendly country” and “will not do anything that will harm the security interests.”
He also said he would request India to help with investments in many fields, and help in the education sector as well as the development of technology.