World Bulletin / News Desk
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Sri Lankan capital Colombo Thursday to "inaugurate" the International Vesak celebrations.
Vesak is the most sacred religious event in the Buddhist calendar as it is marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.
Both India and Sri Lanka have taken pains to project Modi’s visit to the Buddhist-majority nation of 21 million to be of a religious and cultural nature, though New Delhi’s apprehension over China’s sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean, and more so over Sri Lanka, is well-documented.
The Indian Premier has called his two-day visit symbolic of "a strong friendship".
There has been great emphasis by both sides that no agreements will be formalized during Modi’s two-day visit, but there have been protests agaisnt a pending memorandum of understanding between the two countries, to lease 99 oil tanks in the eastern port district of Trincomalee to India -- a project that has been in the pipeline for quite some time.
Modi will inaugurate the 150-bed Dickoya Hospital, built with Indian assistance and lay the foundation stone for the Faculty of Kandyan Dance at the Sri Lankan International Buddhist Academy, to be constructed with Indian funds.
Indo-Sri Lankan relations significantly improved after Colombo’s administration change in January 2015, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 10-year old government which heavily leaned towards China.
After assuming office in 2015, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena suspended all Chinese-funded infrastructure projects including a $ 1.4 billion Chinese-funded land reclamation project outside the Colombo port. But in steep debt, Sri Lanka had to restart the project.
Meanwhile, Rajapaksa backers called for the hoisting of black flags in protest of Modi’s visit for allegedly seeking to "colonize" Sri Lanka, a move that drew the presidential ire.
In protest of the possibility of a potential deal, the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation workers went on strike a week ago, crippling public transport.
Political analyst Gamini Viyangoda believes that the protests are causing the government to drag its feet on several critical pending agreements, including the joint venture to in Trincomalee.
For the time being, both India and Sri Lanka appear happy to label Narendra Modi’s second visit to the island nation within two years, as one that reflects the shared religious and cultural heritage.Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2017, 00:51