New Delhi: In his maiden foreign trip after assuming charge, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a four-day visit during which he will hold talks with the Indian leadership on the entire gamut of bilateral ties including ways to further enhance cooperation, peace and the reconciliation process in the island nation.
Mr Sirisena, who had dethroned Mahinda Rajapaksa from his 10-year rule after a bitter Presidential poll, has already indicated that he wants to have a closer relationship with India and chose it for his first foreign visit. The Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold today during which they are likely to deliberate on all major issues such as devolution of power to the Tamil community and the fishermen issue.
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 the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution.
The amendment that followed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lankan President JR Jayewardene envisaged the devolution of powers to the provinces in the midst of the island’s bitter ethnic conflict.
In the evening today, Mr Sirisena will meet President Pranab Mukherjee who will also host a banquet in the honour of his Sri Lankan counterpart.
Mr Sirisena is leading a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, Resettlement Minister DM Swaminathan, Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka and Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksha.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister visited India last month on his first foreign trip soon after assuming charge during which he held talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
In the meeting between Ms Swaraj and Mr Samaraweera, both sides agreed to re-engage on repatriation of refugees from India, besides holding talks on a raft of crucial issues, including political reconciliation process and the sticky fishermen issue.
According to official figures, more than 1,00,000 Sri Lankan refugees are in Tamil Nadu, out of which some 68,000 are housed in over 100 government-run camps.
Last week, the Spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry had said both the countries were looking at “substantive talks”.
The Sri Lankan president will travel to Buddhist pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya and the temple in Tirupati on February 17 before returning home on February 18.