New Delhi hopes to stave off any renewed pronounced pro-China tilt now by Colombo through a policy of active engagement with Sri Lanka.
New Delhi/Colombo: In what is being seen as a setback to India, Ranil Wickremesinghe, seen as very close to New Delhi, resigned on Wednesday, after which Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly named his older brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the new Prime Minister.
This means the Rajapaksa brothers will occupy the post of both President and Prime Minister in the island nation and once again become all-powerful, a factor that may worry India, given the earlier proximity of the two brothers towards China.
International news agencies reported that Mahinda Rajapaksa will assume charge as the new PM soon after Mr Wickremesinghe steps down formally on Thursday. It may be recalled that Mahinda Rajapaksa was earlier appointed the Prime Minister on October 26, 2018 by then President Maithripala Sirisena, who sacked Mr Wickremesinghe in a controversial move that had plunged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa had resigned a few weeks later after two crucial Sri Lankan Supreme Court decisions which made it clear Mr Wickremesinghe would
remain Prime Minister.
It may also be recalled that during the spat between Mr Sirisena and Mr Wickremesinghe, it was Mr Wickremesinghe who was seen as very close to India and his departure from the prime ministership is now being seen by many as a setback to India.
It may further be recalled that during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005 to 20015, Chinese submarines were found moving in Sri Lankan waters and India had expressed its concerns at that time. New Delhi hopes to stave off any renewed pronounced pro-China tilt now by Colombo through a policy of active engagement with Sri Lanka.
As reported on Tuesday, new Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will visit India on November 29, with New Delhi having swiftly extended an invitation to him on Tuesday in person through external affairs minister S. Jaishankar in Colombo. Mr Jaishankar had dashed off to Sri Lanka on a two-day visit beginning Tuesday, and had met the Sri Lankan President and conveyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “message of a partnership for shared peace, progress, prosperity and security” while expressing confidence that under Mr Rajapaksa’s leadership, India-Sri Lankan relations would reach “greater heights”.
The reference to “security” by India was seen as significant. Sri Lanka suffered major terror attacks earlier this year and had failed to prevent it despite the advance intelligence warnings from New Delhi.