In their first substantive interaction after India's contentious vote at the UN Human Rights Council censuring Sri Lanka, PM Manmohan Singh and President Mahinda Rajapaksa are likely to meet during the latter's 'private visit' to India starting September 20.
Government sources confirmed that India has conveyed Singh's inclination to have a meeting with Rajapaksa, who has not hidden his displeasure over India's vote in favour of the US-sponsored resolution, even as they suggested that the feelers for such a meeting first came from the Lankan side.
The last time the two leaders met was on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit in June but, as the president told TOI during the course of an exclusive interview last month, they barely had time to dwell on any bilateral issue. Rajapaksa is expected to lay the foundation stone for a Buddhist university at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh on September 21 in what Lankan authorities have described as a private visit.
Sri Lankan government sources confirmed that the president will be in Delhi on September 20 but refused to reveal anything more. Interestingly, Indian officials were at pains to explain that they responded by communicating the government's desire for a meeting between the two leaders only after some "positive indications'' from the island nation for such a meeting.
Rajapaksa, who called upon India to have a relook at its policies in the region in an interview to TOI recently, will be at Sanchi also at the invitation of the Madhya Pradesh government which is helping build the university. While the Indian government has been in rapprochement mode after the UNHRC vote, reflected in the decision to allow the Kapilavastu relics to travel to Sri Lanka last month, authorities here were also concerned that a visit at the invitation of a state government couldn't strictly be a private trip.
The meeting will come against the backdrop of latest strife over the issue of alleged attacks on Indian fishermen by the Lankan navy and almost retaliatory attacks in Tamil Nadu on Lankan pilgrims, forcing Sri Lanka to issue a travel advisory asking its citizens not to travel to the state. India was cautious in its response but assured that it will continue to work for the safely of all Lankan visitors.
Tamil Nadu leaders, including CM J Jayalalitha, have repeatedly appealed to the Centre to stop "attacks'' on Indian fishermen by Lankan navy. Rajapaksa had told TOI though that the Sri Lankan law had to be upheld in dealing with fishermen who strayed into its waters and cited the development in which Lankan navy had even detained some Chinese fishermen.
It remains to be seen how Tamil parties react to discussions underway between the two countries to facilitate the meeting between Singh and Rajapaksa. Talking about the Sanchi visit, one of the UPA constituents in the state, VCK, recently urged the government to not allow Rajapaksa to set foot in the country. (The Times Of India)