NEW DELHI: With Mahinda Rajapaksa’s return to power being thwarted in the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections, there is relief and quiet satisfaction as New Delhi will only have to deal with Ranil Wickremesinghe as the island nation’s prime minister. Expectation is that this would help create the right environment in meeting India’s main concerns -pushing the reconciliation process and resolving the fishermen issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to congratulate Wickremesinghe. “Spoke to Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and congratulated him on his alliance’s wonderful performance in the elections,” was the message posted on Modi’s twitter account at 7.12 pm.
“Confident that under Mr. Wickremesinghe’s leadership, bilateral ties between India & Sri Lanka will get stronger,” Modi said and congratulated the “people of Sri Lanka on the peaceful conduct of polls”.
The United National Party of Wickremesinghe won 106 seats in the 225-member parliament. With the help of 16 seats of TNA and other constituents, the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) would go past the majority line. The results has given New Delhi relief, since forecast had not been very optimistic.
After taking oath on Wednesday, Wickremesinghe, who has never gone on a foreign visit in the eight-month long government, is likely to choose India as his first foreign port of call.
Soon after winning the Presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena, came to India in March, ahead of visiting China, and Modi also visited Lanka - the first stand-alone visit by an Indian PM in two decades.
New Delhi took special note of Wickremesinghe’s statement made in the afternoon to claim victory for its conciliatory language. “Now it is no longer necessary to be divided as winners and losers. We need to unite as one family to create a new political culture in this country… Let’s build a civilised society, a Government of consensus, a new country,” he said.
Of course, for both Wickremesinghe and Sirisena the next big challenge would be to work quickly to prepare a credible domestic mechanism for a healing hand after years of civil war, ahead of the tabling of the report of the UNHRC in September.