Ever since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the President of Sri Lanka, India has moved swiftly to enhance the bilateral ties between the two countries which has caught China off-guard. The consensus was that Sri Lanka will now take a pro-China tilt with the return of Rajapaksa brothers but the events taking place post Gotabaya’s victory had surprised many. Gotabaya who is on a three-day trip to India – also his first official visit to any country as the President saw Sri Lanka receiving a $450 million Line of Credit from India. The soft loan granted by India is in stark contrast to China’s predatory approach of debt-trap which Sri Lanka was also a victim of.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday financial assistance of USD 450 million to Sri Lanka including USD 50 million to fight terrorism after he held “fruitful” talks with the island nation’s newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
In his media statement after the talks, Modi said he assured Rajapaksa of India’s full assistance in taking his country in the path of rapid development. The Prime Minister announced a line of credit of USD 400 million for development projects in Sri Lanka besides granting a separate fund of USD 50 million to help the country deal with challenges of terrorism. “I have discussed in detail with President Rajapaksa how to strengthen our cooperation in dealing with terrorism. Sri Lankan police officers are receiving training on countering terrorism in prominent Indian institutions,” Modi said. Rajapaksa who received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan said: “During my tenure as president, I want to bring the relationship between India and Sri Lanka to a very high level. We have a long-standing relationship historically as well as politically.”
Gotabaya’s visit comes just 10 days after he was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new President. India wasted no time as PM Modi was one of the first leaders to congratulate Gotabaya and quickly sent EAM S Jaishankar to Sri Lanka for an unscheduled two-day visit who invited Gotabaya to visit India. The fact that Gotabaya chose to come to India as his first official visit as the President and not China is significant and further proves that Sri Lanka will not undergo a pro-China tilt.
Gotabaya during his campaign had even outlined a roadmap to improve bilateral ties with India in his manifesto. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had earlier this year also visited India. It seems that the Rajapaksa brothers have learned from their mistakes and will not succumb to Chinese pressure again. Gotabaya has publicly relegated China to being a trade partner while he has claimed that India is a relative of Sri Lanka. The Hambantota port continues to be a miserable failure and Gotabaya claimed that: “The strategically important, economically important harbour, giving that is not acceptable. That we should have control. We have to renegotiate. Giving a terminal for an operation is a different thing, giving some location to build a hotel is different, not the control over a very important place, it is not acceptable. So that is my position.” Simply put, Gotabaya is determined to take back Hambantota from the throngs of China.
India and Sri Lanka are determined to end the Islamic terror which has emerged as a unifier. While the mainstream media in India claimed that India and Sri Lanka’s relations will rapidly deteriorate now that the Rajapaksa brothers are back, TFIPOST had predicted that the bilateral relations will take off from here which has indeed proved to be true.