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    Showing posts with label Rajiv Gandhi. Show all posts

    28 years after Rajiv Gandhi's near disastrous visit, confident Modi strides into Sri Lanka

    Optics, symbolism and body language are crucially important in diplomacy. If one goes by that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a powerful statement in Sri Lanka already.

    He came here with folded hands, and then stretched out his arms with an open mind. In bitter contrast, the last time an Indian Prime Minister visited Colombo – Rajiv Gandhi on 30 July, 1987 – he was famously hit by a soldier’s rifle butt when he was inspecting a guard of honour.

    If Rajiv Gandhi had not been alert and ducked, he may have died on the spot. Wijemuni Vijitha Rohana de Silva’s rifle butt hit Rajiv on the shoulder, not on the head where it was meant to land. Wijemuni instantaneously became a popular figure, so much so that after his release from prison he even contested a general election under a ticket for the Sihala Urumaya party in 2000, but lost. Less than two years ago, he admitted in an on-record interview that he intended to kill the Indian premier. Read the full interview here.
    Modi with President Maithripala Sirisena: PTI

    Modi with President Maithripala Sirisena: PTI
    Wijemuni’s action was meant to be an act of revenge against Rajiv Gandhi’s fateful decision of sending the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka.

    This was the time when India-Sri Lanka relations were at their nadir and anti-India rabid Tamil parties were born and got strengthened in Tamil Nadu and Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE in Tamil Nadu on 21 May, 1991.

    This contrasting tale of two Indian Prime Ministers in Sri Lanka conveys a lot. To drive the point further home, PM Modi visited the IPKF memorial here and paid homage to IPKF soldiers. This ritual will definitely become a must-do for all future Indian Prime Ministers who visit Sri Lanka.

    The significance of his visit is not lost on Modi himself.

    Sample his words in his media statement after his talks with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena: "I am conscious of the significance of this visit. It is the first standalone bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987. Last month, President Sirisena honoured us by making India his first foreign visit as a President. I am glad to be here so soon. This is how it should be between neighbours. We should meet regularly. It helps us understand each other better; find solutions to mutual concerns; and, move our relationship forward. That is what we achieved in my meetings with President Sirisena today."

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