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No ‘third force’ will be allowed to affect relations with India: Gotabaya Rajapaksa to PM Modi

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the newly-elected Sri Lankan President held an hour-long meeting with PM Narendra Modi on Friday. During the discussions between the two leaders, Rajapaksa is believed to have told PM Modi that no “third force” will be allowed to impede the progress in bilateral relations between India and its neighbouring island nation – in an apparent reference to China.

Rajapaksa is visiting New Delhi on his first official state visit after being elected the President on November 18 in a closely fought election. 

He was given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Ram Nath Kovind and PM Modi on Friday.

India announced a $50-million line of credit for security and counterterrorism and another $ 400-million for development and infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. 

“USD 400 million line of credit will be extended to Sri Lanka to strengthen its economy. Under the Indian housing project, 46,000 houses have already been made in Sri Lanka. 14,000 houses further being made for Tamil origin people. $100 million credit line given for solar projects,” Modi said in the joint statement.

President Rajapaksa invited PM Narendra Modi to visit Colombo as the first head of state after he assumed office. The Sri Lankan President during his meeting with Modi reportedly told the latter that bilateral with India will be his “top priority”. 

Rajapaksa choosing India over China for his first official overseas visit is symbolic of the geopolitical importance that Colombo attaches to New Delhi. The presence of China’s naval fleet in the crucial India Ocean Region (IOR) is a concern that both the capitals share and remains central to India-Sri Lanka ties.

“During my tenure as President, I want to take Sri Lanka-India relationship to a higher level. The two countries have a long-standing friendship. We need to work together for economic development and security of our people,” Rajapaksa said after the welcome. Rajapaksa met PM Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Earlier, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called on Rajapaksa.

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