New Sri Lanka president to visit India: Modi

NEW DELHI  (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena is to visit New Delhi later this month on what is expected to be his first foreign trip since winning power, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday.

"I look forward to welcoming President Sirisena later this month," Modi said on his Twitter account in a goodwill message to Sri Lanka as the former British colony celebrated Independence Day.

"The bonds of history, culture & shared values that we share are unbreakable," Modi added.

There was no immediate confirmation of the dates from Indian officials but Sri Lankan sources said Sirisena was set to travel to New Delhi on February 16 for a two-day visit which would also include a pilgrimage to a religious site.

Sirisena has previously said India would be his first port of call as president.

Ties between India and its southern neighbour Sri Lanka were often tense during the decade-long rule of Sirisena’s predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse, who infuriated New Delhi by openly courting China.

Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh pointedly boycotted a 2013 Commonwealth summit that was hosted by Rajapakse.

Sirisena’s victory over Rajapakse in last month’s presidential election has been seen as a chance for the two countries to reboot ties as Modi seeks to reassert India’s dominance in its own backyard.

Sri Lanka’s new Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera travelled to New Delhi in his first week in office, saying that his visit "reflects our priorities".

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