New Delhi, November 17 (newsin.asia): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) after he won the November 16 Sri Lankan Presidential election beating Sajith Premadasa of the United National Party (UNP) convincingly.
In his tweet on November 17, Modi said: “Congratulations @GotabayaR on your victory in the Presidential elections. I look forward to working closely with you for deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries and citizens, and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”
In his election manifesto, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had mentioned India and said that he would work for close ties with it.
India had fallen out with the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in 2014 because of it had swung towards China without keeping India informed. India considers Sri Lanka to be under its sphere of influence and wants Colombo to keep it in the loop in regard to matters with security implications for India. The clandestine visit of a Chinese “nuclear” submarine to Colombo created a flutter in New Delhi.
When Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election, he blamed India and the West for it, although he was defeated because he had alienated the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils and Muslims by his high-handed approach and also his corrupt deals.
The opposition led by the United National Party (UNP) formed a formidable alliance and fought the election with Maihripala Sirisena as the candidate. Sirisena was seen as a clean figure who had left Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party even though he was its General Secretary. An old friend of India, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had played a critical role in persuading Sirisena to defect and become the common opposition candidate.
After Sirisena and Wickremesinghe took charge, India presented a number of major project proposals in the energy and other industrial sectors and made a bid for the Mattala airport and the construction of the Eastern Terminal in Colombo port. But the new government dragged its feet on these projects and did not move forward causing dismay and even anger in New Delhi.
However, India managed to implement the housing and ambulance projects with the help of friendly ministers like Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa, Rajitha Senaratne and Dr.Harsha de Silva.
Aware of the sensitivities of Sri Lankans, New Delhi’s policy under Modi has been to undertake and execute projects at their instance and at the pace they desire.
Pending Indian projects are likely to be taken up under the Gotabaya administration because, during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Presidentship, the project to build 50,000 houses for the war-affected people of the North and East, and also rail projects in North and South Lanka were completed ahead of time.
Defence cooperation will also get a boost as during Eelam War IV (2006-2009), Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was Defence Secretary, was part of the successful Lanka-India consultation and coordination mechanism called the “Troika”. The troika had three senior personnel each from India and Sri Lanka on it to coordinate matters relating to the conduct of the war against the separatist militant group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).