Gotabaya wants Modi to visit SL as first foreign leader

Gotabaya wants Modi to visit SL as first foreign leader

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. (PTI photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be the first foreign leader to visit Sri Lanka after the island nation got a new government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this month.

Gotabaya, who took over as President on November 18, had a meeting with Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday.

Later, addressing reporters along with Modi, Rajapaksa said,"I will avail this opportunity to invite Prime Minister Modi to visit Sri Lanka as the first Head of Government to visit Sri Lanka after my election as the President.”

He noted that the first official invitation he had received to visit a foreign country after his election had been sent by Modi.

“I am certainly very happy to be here because India is our closest neighbour as well as our long-standing friend,” said Rajapaksa, who arrived in New Delhi late on Thursday— making it his first foreign destination as President of Sri Lanka.

Gotabaya defeated his nearest rival Sajitha Premdasa in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka earlier this month. His election and subsequent appointment of his eleder brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister fueled speculation in New Delhi about the possibility of China regaining its strategic edge in the maritime neighbourhood of India.

New Delhi, however, reached out to Gotabaya fast.

External Affairs Minsiter S Jaishankar flew to Colombo to meet the new Sri Lankan president on November 19 – just a day after Gotabaya took the top office.

Jaishankar conveyed to Gotabaya an invitation from Modi to visit New Delhi at the earliest.