‘Lot of expectations’ from Modi visit: SL
Sri Lanka has a “lot of expectations” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit next week, top political leaders here said on Saturday, while highlighting that a bi-lateral trip by an Indian premier was long due. “There are lot of expectations from Modi’s visit,” R Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka’s chief Tamil party, said talking about Modi’s two-day visit scheduled to begin on March 13.
Meanwhile, ahead of Modi’s visit, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has sparked a major controversy by suggesting that Indian fishermen could be shot if they intruded into the country’s waters. Alleging that Indian fishermen were taking away the livelihood of those from Northern Lanka, Wickremesinghe told a Tamil news channel, Thanthi TV, “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed...Law allows me to do that.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I have very, very strong lines. This is our waters... Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing, that’s why the Indian fishermen came in. They are willing to have a deal... Let’s have a reasonable deal. But not at the expense of the income of the Northern fishermen... No.” he said.
On a two-day trip ahead of Modi’s visit here next week, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made it clear to him that there was no comparison between the issues of Italian sailors and the fishermen.
“In the discussion with Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, she (Swaraj) raised the matter regarding issues related to Indian fishermen. She explained our view that issues of fishermen is a humanitarian issue. It is an issue of livelihood,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters, hours after Wickramasinghe’s remarks.
However, the new Sri Lankan government has promised the Indian leadership of taking everybody along without any discrimination on the reconciliation issue. Former Lankan Army chief, who successfully led the war against LTTE, and political leader Gen Sarath Fonseka said that the visit by an Indian Prime Minister should have happened much earlier. He thanked India for the continued support to Sri Lanka and said that the “non-aligned” stand of the two countries should
Modi’s visit on March 13-14 will be the first bilateral trip by an Indian Prime Minister since Rajiv Gandhi visited the island in 1987 to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord.