COLOMBO: The fact that India has invited the Sri Lankan President, Miathripala Sirisena, and the Leader of Opposition and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader, R.Sampanthan, to the Simhasth Kumbh Mela being held at Ujjain, is considered politically significant here.
Although Sirisena and Sampanthan are not on par in protocol, the fact that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the First Citizen of Sri Lanka and the leader of the Tamils, shows the good relations he has with both and is politically “quite significant”, said M.A.Sumanthiran, TNA spokesman and MP for Jaffna district.
Sumanthiran told Express here on Thursday that ever since Modi assumed office in 2014, the TNA and Modi have been maintaining “regular contact”. And right through, the Indian PM has been showing concern for the Lankan Tamil‘s welfare.
Though the official invitation to Sampanthan was extended by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, it was done at the behest of the Indian Prime Minister, Sumanthiran pointed out.
Sampanthan left for Ujjain on Thursday. President Sirisena will be reaching Ujjain after concluding his engagements in London. They are expected to have meetings with Modi on the sidelines of the Mela on Saturday.
The function at Ujjain is being organized essentially by the BJP and is meant to build bridges between the Hindus and Buddhists in India and abroad. Modi is trying to use the ancient link between Hinduism and Buddhism to better India’s relations with Buddhist countries in South and South East Asia.
Modi is also trying to promote a “Buddhist Trail” for Buddhist pilgrims coming to India, and to revive the abandoned “Ramayana Trail” in Sri Lanka for Hindu pilgrims. The Ramayana Trail, mooted in the late 1990s with the blessings of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, did not take off for lack of government as well as popular support as Lankans feared a big influx of Indians.