Sri Lanka president in key India visit

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Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena has discussed forging closer ties with India during landmark talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two sides signed key agreements on trade and civil nuclear co-operation during Mr Sirisena’s first official foreign visit since taking office.

By visiting India he is making it clear that ties with Delhi are a priority.

This is in sharp contrast to his predecessor, who forged closer ties with India’s rival China.

During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule, China invested billions in loans and infrastructure projects in the island nation. Last year, a Chinese warship and two submarines visited Colombo port, much to the dislike of the Indian authorities.

Prime Minister Modi described Sri Lanka as India’s “closest neighbour and friend” following the talks.

The two leaders signed four agreements, including one on increasing trade as well as a landmark deal on civilian nuclear co-operation – the first that Sri Lanka has signed with any country.

Tamil issue

The two leaders also discussed Sri Lanka’s efforts to establish reconciliation with the ethnic Tamil minority.

Sri Lankan Tamils have complained that little has been done to restore trust and national unity after the war with Tamil rebels ended in 2009.

The issue resonates in India, which has its own sizeable Tamil population.

Before returning home on Wednesday, President Sirisena is due to travel to the Hindu temple in Tirupati, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, and also the Buddhist pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya in Bihar.