Rajapaksa leaves for India on first overseas visit

India and Sri Lanka flags near the Rashtrapati Bhawan at Raisina Hill ahead of the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's visit, in New Delhi

Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Thursday left for India on his first official overseas visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rajapaksa is accompanied by his Secretary P B Jayasundera and Lalith Weeratunga, Advisor to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

During the two-day visit, the Lankan president will hold talks with Prime Minister Modi to deepen strategic bilateral ties.

The 70-year-old leader stormed to victory in Sri Lanka's presidential elections, the results of which came on November 17. He trounced his nearest rival Sajith Premadasa by a margin of over 13 lakh votes - 52.25 per cent of votes polled against 41.99 per cent.

Modi had telephoned Rajapaksa to congratulate him on his electoral win and invited him to visit India as his first official foreign tour.

The former defence secretary, who is credited with helping end the island nation's long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is the seventh Sri Lankan President.

On November 19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar arrived in Colombo on an unannounced two-day visit. He became the first foreign dignitary to call on President Rajapaksa.

Sri Lankan officials said Jaishankar carried a letter of personal congratulations to Rajapaksa from Prime Minister Modi and the invitation to visit India.

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