Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Friday that the Government of Sri Lanka and its people are eagerly looking forward to Prime MInister Narendra Modi's visit to the island-nation next week.
In an exclusive interview given to Thanti TV, Wickremesinghe said that he was quite satisfied with the heightened level of bilateral engagement between New Delhi and Colombo, and added that his government had absolutely no problem with Prime Minister Modi's plans to visit any part of the country, including Jaffna and Kandy, as also to his plans to interact with Tamil population of Sri Lanka.
He also said that he was happy with the outcomes achieved from President Maithripala Sirisena's first official visit to India last month.
Wickramasinghe said, "Yes... I'm quite happy. First, being President Sirisena's visit to Delhi, Next month will be Prime Minister Modi's visit to Sri Lanka... This shows we are re-establishing links, repairing the damage, getting ahead."
Observing the importance of an Indian Prime Minister undertaking a bilateral visit to Sri Lanka after 28 years, Wickremesinghe said that if Prime Minister Modi wishes to visit the North of Sri Lanka, his government would facilitate and encourage such a visit.
Wickramasinghe said, "He is welcome to visit to Jaffna... We have invited him for him to visit Jaffna; He is requested to visit Jaffna. And that visit will take place. He also has to decide what are the other places he would like to visit during his stay in Sri Lanka."
He further said, "Well he may visit Kandy, which is the old capital. But I think, the focus will mainly be on some of our religious places and the North.
Referring specifically to the visit to Kandy, where a substantial number of Indian-origin Tamils live, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said, "Kandy is possible on the places that he (Modi) may like to visit...Then, he could visit the Temple of the Tooth and pay homage to the Tooth relic. But his meetings with the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka will mainly be in and around Jaffna. Remember there are enough of Tamils of recent Indian origin in Colombo... He need not go anywhere else; he can meet them all in Colombo."
Wickremasinghe said that he did not agree with the previous regime (of President Mahinda Rajapaksa) view of not being very cozy about foreign heads of government visiting the North of Sri Lanka, and added that the present regime of President Sirisena did not have a problem on this score.
"No, once we have a visit by a foreign head of government, in addition to Colombo, he must be allowed to choose where he likes to visit."
When asked when he plans to undertake a visit to India, Prime Minister Wickramasinghe said, "Well, I have been visiting India on and off... But I don't think I will come to India till after the parliamentary elections are over."