NEW YORK: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued neighbourhood diplomacy in New York in a bilateral meeting with Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly session. Mr Sirisena assured Mr Modi that the reconciliation process underway after years of civil war in the country will continue and reiterated Sri Lanka’s support for India’s permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council.
The meeting between the leaders of the two countries was held on September 25 in New York. The meeting comes just a few days after Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made a successful bilateral visit to India to re-energise the ties with India. The relations between India and Sri Lanka regressed during the tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was more favourably disposed towards China. Mr Rajapaksa had even gone to the extent of blaming India and US for his electoral defeat accusing the two countries of interfering in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs. Both Sri Lankan leaders Mr Sirisena and Mr Wickremesinghe have made re-energising ties with India a top priority. This was evident with Mr Wickremesinghe choosing to make his first overseas trip to India after taking over as Prime Minister.
Complimenting Mr Sirisena on the successful and peaceful completion of parliamentary elections, Mr Modi said, “it showed a deep-rooted commitment to democracy, a trait shared with India.” Speaking about the recent UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) report calling for special courts with international participation to try those charged with war crimes during the civil war in Sri Lanka, Mr Modi said that he supported the quest for justice, but also respected Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. A way could be found for a consensus between Colombo and the UNHRC, added Mr Modi.
Sri Lanka managed to conduct its first peaceful parliamentary election in August this year after nearly three decades of intense civil war in the country. Sri Lanka has opposed the hybrid courts that would investigate the war crimes with international judges, saying it would only accept advice from outside without any external interference.
The two sides also spoke about bilateral development projects that include building of 57,000 houses in areas ravaged by civil war, railway infrastructure and power generation. India had promised assistance to Sri Lanka in rebuilding the country and it comes as no surprise that the Sri Lankan leaders are re-prioritising their foreign policy, making relations with India a top priority.
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