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Sri Lankan President Sirisena to hold talks with PM Modi today

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New Delhi: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is on a four-day visit to India, will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
India is according high importance to the visit that is seen as a new beginning in bilateral ties that took a hit during the rule of his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Ties between the two countries had suffered during Rajapaksa’s tenure given his close alliance with China. India’s backing to US-moved resolutions at the UN rights body over alleged warcrimes had also added to the freeze.

The talks will cover the entire gamut of bilateral ties including ways to further enhance cooperation and the peace and reconciliation process in the island nation. Both leaders will deliberate on all major issues such as devolution of power to the Tamil community and the sticky fishermen issue.

Importantly, Sirisena is also expected to ally India`s fears over the dragon’s growing reach in Sri Lanka.

“We will be making a new beginning with India,” acting government spokesman and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said in Colombo.

The fact that chose India for his first foreign visit also indicates that he wants to have a closer relationship with the neighbouring country.

The Sri Lankan President is leading a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Resettlement Minister D M Swaminathan, Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka and Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksha.

India has been hoping that the new Lankan government will develop ties on the “foundation of genuine and effective reconciliation” creating harmony among all sections there.

India has also been pressing for implementation of 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution.

The amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 signed between then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lankan President J R Jayewardene envisaged the devolution of powers to the provinces in the midst of the island’s bitter ethnic conflict.

Later in the day, Sirisena will meet President Pranab Mukherjee who will also host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary.

The Sri Lankan President will travel to Buddhist pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya and the temple in Tirupati on February 17 before returning home the next day.

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