Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, starting today. PM Modi had last traveled to Sri Lanka in March, 2015. Modi’s visit to the neighbouring country is taking place close on the heels of a trip by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe to India.
On the first day of the visit, PM Modi will attend the biggest Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ as its chief guest. The celebrations during the ‘International Day of Vesak’ in Colombo from May 12 to 14 would include an International Buddhist Conference that would witness the participation of over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries. Vesak is the most important day in Buddhist calendar, marking the commemoration of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away.
According to Sanjay Panda, Joint Secretary (Indian Ocean Region), External Affairs Ministry, no formal talks have been scheduled in Sri Lanka, but PM Modi would be interacting with Sri Lankan leaders. “We do not envisage any formal talks but he will be interacting with the leaders and review the relationship in its entirety. Nothing is specifically earmarked for discussion during the current visit,” he told reporters.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) May 11, 2017
Reached Colombo. I am happy to be in Sri Lanka, where I will join the International Vesak Day Celebrations. pic.twitter.com/DuVRPNQjxk
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 11, 2017
On Facebook, PM Modi shared details and purpose of his visit to Sri Lanka. Here’s what he said:
“I will be in Sri Lanka for a two-day visit starting today, 11th May. This will be my second bilateral visit there in two years, a sign of our strong relationship.
During my visit, I will join the International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo on 12th May, where I will interact with leading Buddhist spiritual leaders, scholars and theologians. It is my honour to join these celebrations with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
My visit brings to the fore one of the most abiding links between India and Sri Lanka- the shared heritage of Buddhism.
During my last visit in 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Anuradhapura, a UNESCO world heritage site and a leading centre of Buddhism for centuries. This time, I will be privileged to pay respect at the revered Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
My visit will commence in Colombo with a visit to the Seema Malaka at the Gangaramayya temple where I will take part in the traditional lamp lighting ceremony.
I will be meeting with President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and other eminent dignitaries.
I will also visit the up country region of Sri Lanka where I will inaugurate the Dickoya Hospital that has been built with Indian assistance, and have an interaction with the Indian-origin Tamil community.”
PM Modi would also visit Kandy in the Central Province, which is famous for the production of Ceylon Tea.
On Indo-Sri Lanka relations, Panda said: “We feel our destinies are intertwined. We hope the Prime Minister’s visit will be able to provide further momentum in the ties between the two countries.”
In his last visit to Sri Lanka, New Delhi and Colombo had signed a pact to boost economic ties. Modi and Wickremesinghe had then discussed a range of bilateral issues and matters of mutual interest. The pact also provided a framework to identify the infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka where India could invest.
(With PTI input)