Swaraj in Lanka ahead of Modi visit

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Colombo: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived here today on a two-day trip to set the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka next week, the first bilateral visit to the country by an Indian premier in over 25 years.

During her two-day stay, Swaraj will call on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and hold talks with her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera.

Swaraj will today call on new President Maithripala Sirisena.

Samaraweera will host a dinner for his Indian counterpart later tonight.

Swaraj had last visited Lanka in 2012 as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Modi’s visit from March 13 – 14 will be the first bilateral trip by an Indian prime minister since Rajiv Gandhi visited the island in 1987 to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord.

Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to travel to war-ravaged Jaffna in Tamil-dominated Northern Province and Trincomalee in the Eastern Province.

He will address the Sri Lanka Parliament and is scheduled to travel to Anuradhapura and Kandy.

Modi’s visit will be a return visit after Sirisena’s visit to New Delhi last month that saw the two countries sign a civil nuclear pact. It was Sirisena’s first overseas visit since becoming president in January.

India-Sri Lanka relations had seen tensions during last few years of the rule of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was voted out of power, as China had expanded its footprint in the country by building ports, highways and participating in other infrastructure projects.

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