COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said here on Thursday that he has no plans to visit India although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had extended an open invitation to him when he was here in March 2015.
Resident foreign correspondents who met Rajapaksa asked him if he would visit India also since he had gone to China, Japan and Malaysia after being defeated in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election.
“I have no plans to visit India. But when Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka he told me that I can come at any time. There is a standing invitation,” Rajapaksa said.
From 2010 to 2014, India was very displeased with Rajapaksa for getting too close to the Chinese, giving to a Chinese state-owned company, the construction of a second terminal at Colombo harbor, and then, at the end of 2014, allowing a Chinese nuclear submarine to dock at Colombo harbor without informing India of the visit. Rajapaksa’s plea that the Chinese had informed India about the visit was not accepted by India.
India has a strategic interest in Colombo harbour because 70 percent of the latter’s business comprises trans-shipment to and from India, India does not want China to be able to snoop on Indian shipping from Colombo harbour.
Rajapaksa’s plan to build an ultra-modern Colombo Port City with a large part of land reclaimed from the sea being given to the Chinese on the outright sale rang alarm bells in New Delhi. India protested through diplomatic channels but Rajapaksa turned a deaf ear.
Rajapaksa also disregarded New Delhi’s advice to devolve powers to the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces to solve the long-festering Tamil problem which had led to a 30-year destructive war. The then Sri Lankan President promised to go beyond the 13 th.Amendment of the constitution which was passed at the instance of India in 1987. But he reneged on the promise. He held elections to the Northern Provincial Council with great reluctance in 2013 four years after the war ended.
India was expecting Rajapaksa to deliver the goods in terms of the promises made in return for help to defeat the LTTE in Eelam War IV. But once the war was over, Rajapaksa ignored India.
Eventually, according to Rajapaksa, India joined in the Western plot to oust him. Asked in what way India helped bring about a regime change, Rajapaksa said: “ That is what I am trying to find out!”.
However, when Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka in March 2015, he had a one to one meeting with Rajapaksa at the Indian High Commissioner’s residence in Colombo. It was described as a courtesy meeting with a former President. During the meeting, a conciliatory Modi issued an open invitation to Rajapaksa to visit India.