Modi arrives in Sri Lanka on third leg of three-nation tour

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Colombo: Prime minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Sri Lankan capital early Thursday on the third and final leg of his three-nation visit. His visit is the first bilateral prime ministerial visit to Sri Lanka in 28 years.

Modi was received by Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the airport as his special plane touched down in Colombo at 5.25 a.m.

Later Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Modi arrived from Port Louis in Mauritius.

He is scheduled to hold talks with President Sirisena,Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, opposition leader Nimal Sripala de Silva and leaders of several other political parties.

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa is also likely to call on Modi.

Modi is scheduled to address the Sri Lankan parliament in the afternoon, becoming the first Indian prime minister to do so since Moraji Desai in February 1979.

The first foreign leader to address Sri Lanka’s legislature was then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962, followed by Indira Gandhi in April 1973.

The Sirisena government has thrown a tight security blanket over the city with over a 1,000 policemen, including elite commandos on duty.

As a goodwill measure the Sri Lankan president on Wednesday ordered the release of 86 Indian fisherman in Colombo’s custody.

New Delhi responded by announcing the release of 22 Sri Lankan fishermen along with their boats which had been detained recently, said a media report.

The fishermen issue is to figure prominently in discussions between the two sides.

Modi will be the first Indian prime minister and only the second foreign leader after British Premier David Cameron to visit Jaffna in the war-ravaged northern province, where he will hand over homes built with the help of Indian assistance.

In Jaffna, Modi is to meet Tamil leaders. His itinerary also includes a visit to the city of Anuradhapura.

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