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Rajapaksa to visit India following foreign minister trip to Delhi

Sri Lanka’s prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is set to visit India next month, after foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena visited Delhi and held talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on the relationship between the two governments.

The two officials reportedly held wide ranging talks, touching on “a range of substantive bilateral issues and regional concerns,” tweeted Jaishankar.

“The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister reiterated the importance laid by President Rajapaksa on exploring newer areas of cooperation with India with emphasis on skill development, vocational training and capacity building and requested India’s support,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs added.

However, Indian officials declined to comment on whether the two discussed infrastructure projects in Colombo and Trincomalee, as well as other regions in the North-East, or on the Economic and Technical Cooperation (ETCA) preferential trade agreement talks that has remained stagnant for years.

"At the same time, the EAM did take up the matter of fishermen and boats which are in the custody of Sri Lanka," said India’s Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, highlighting the ongoing issue of attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy.

"We understand from the conversation that the process to release the boats is ongoing and should happen very soon," Kumar added.

Gunawardena meanwhile highlighted terrorism as a topic of discussion, telling ANI, “Terrorism is a danger for India as well as for Sri Lanka”.

“In India and Sri Lanka, we are giving special attention to it and working together on this field,” he added.

“India had announced special financial assistance to Sri Lanka to counter-terrorism after holding talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he visited New Delhi last year. As a Foreign Minister, I came here to consolidate and strengthen Sri Lanka-India relations,” he said.  India offered Sri Lanka $450 million in credit for development and security in November, despite concerns over the government’s human rights record.

Following on from his visit reports now suggest that Mahinda Rajapaksa will travel to New Delhi next month to hold talks with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The trip will be the third high level Sri Lankan visit to Delhi, adding on to Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s meetings there just weeks after he took up office.

The trips come as Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians R Sampanthan and M A Sumanthiran both highlighted promises made to India that the Sri Lankan government would devolve power to Tamil provinces.