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Modi and Rajapaksa to discuss 'defence and security' with Sri Lanka in virtual summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to meet virtually for a bilateral summit on 26 September, for the first time since the Rajapaksa regime’s parliamentary election victory last month, where defence, security and other “international issues of mutual interest” are to be discussed.

“The summit will give the opportunity to two leaders to comprehensively review the broad framework of the bilateral relationship soon after Parliamentary polls in Sri Lanka and in context of time-tested friendly ties," Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement

The virtual summit is to be the first official interaction between the two leaders since they met in New Delhi in February this year.

Whither the 13th Amendment?

Eelam Tamils will be watching the summit closely to see whether Sri Lanka’s 13th Amendment, signed in the wake of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, will be a topic of discussion. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called for the implementation of the amendment, which would see powered devolved to the Tamil-speaking provinces in the North-East amidst other measures. However recent statements by Sri Lankan politicians, including the State Minister of Provincial Councils, have attacked the amendment and pledged to strip it of crucial clauses.

Chinese Friction

Another topic of interest in the summit will be the Indian friction with China, due to the recent issues at the India-China border and Sri Lanka’s economic indebtedness to China. Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary, Jayanath Colombage, stated, the government would never allow China to use Sri Lanka as “a staging area to hurt the strategic security interests of India”.

Furthermore, Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier claimed the country will always have a “India first approach.”

However, Sri Lanka has recently accelerated construction of the Chinese-led Colombo Port City Project, being the countries single largest foreign investment of around US$1.5 billion.

Sri Lanka’s request for a debt moratorium

As Sri Lanka continues to be in the midst of an economic crisis, in a February summit, Rajapaksa also requested a debt moratorium of three years from New Delhi due to Sri Lanka’s fragile economy. This request is still pending.

In addition, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also requested a $1.1 billion currency swap facility.

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