COLOMBO: Breaking tradition, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the Chief Guest at the Indian Republic Day reception at India House here Monday evening.
Normally, Heads of State or Government do not attend National Day functions at foreign missions, but the Indian High Commission here invited Wickremesinghe and he agreed to come, breaking tradition.
Initially, the Chief Guest was to be Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, but the minister had to go away to Brussels to plead for the lifting of European Union sanctions against Sri Lankan fishermen.
Inviting the Lankan Prime Minister to the Republic Day reception and his acceptance of the invitation, reflect the current bonhomie between India and Sri Lanka, officials said.
Unique Year in India-Lanka Ties
Speaking at the morning function meant exclusively for Indian nationals living in Sri Lanka, High Commissioner Y.K.Sinha noted that this year’s Republic Day function in Colombo is being held after landmark national-elections in India and Sri Lanka which had thrown up new governments.
In Indo-Lanka relations, 2015 will be noted for unprecedented back to back visits at the highest levels. Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will be in India on February 14 and 15, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be in Sri Lanka on March 14 and 15.
Modi’s coming to Lanka will be the first official visit of an Indian Prime Minister since Rajiv Gandhi came to sign the landmark India-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987 to settle the ethnic question in the island nation. Other Indian Prime Ministers had visited Lanka, but only to attend multilateral meetings.
High Commissioner Sinha said that the relations between India and Sri Lanka will get deeper and stronger with ties being strengthened in economic and other areas.
Sirisena to Visit Thirupathi
During his sojourn in India, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will be visiting the Buddhist pilgrimage center of Bodh Gaya and the Hindu pilgrimage center of Thirupathi, officials said.
Sinhalese Buddhists consider Lord Vishnu as the “Guardian of Sri Lanka” and accept Lord Venkateswara as an avatar of Vishnu. Former Presidents J.R.Jayewardene had prayed at Thirupathi once and Mahinda Rajapaksa several times.