In a gesture that can send multiple messages, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make a brief stopover at Colombo on June 8 on his way back from the Maldives, people familiar with the development in India and Sri Lanka have said.
Mr Modi will be visiting the Maldives on his first overseas tour on June 7 and will also address the country’s Parliament. He is likely to then visit the Sri Lankan capital the next day.
The Indian Prime Minister will meet with the top Sri Lankan leadership and may also visit one of the sites of the multiple suicide bombings carried out by ISIS-inspired radicals on Easter Sunday that killed over 200 Sri Lankans. The St. Anthony’s Shrine at Kochchikade is the most likely venue for Mr Modi’s visit.
By stopping over at Colombo, the Prime Minister will not only express solidarity with the victims of the carnage—mostly Sri Lankan Catholics—but will also let the Sri Lankan government know that India is willing to fully support it in its fight against terrorism.
A group of radicalised Sri Lankan Muslims—the majority from one wealthy family—had carried out well-coordinated suicide bombings at three luxury hotels and three prominent churches on April 21, sending shock waves throughout South Asia. The island nation, which had seen a sustained period of peace after a brutal war had in May 2009 decimated the Tamil Tigers, once the most dreaded terrorist groups in the world.
The attack caught the Sri Lankan government by surprise despite two specific warnings sent by Indian intelligence about the impending bombings. The bungle has embarrassed the government no end and showed up the cracks at the top of the ruling dispensation in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) has sent a team to assist the Sri Lankan law enforcers in their post-blasts probe. This support is seen as crucial since some linkages have been found in the preliminary investigations between the perpetrators of the attack and dormant ISIS cells in India.
By visiting Colombo, Prime Minister Modi is expected to send a message to not only Sri Lankan citizens but also to governments across south Asia that India is willing to lead the fight against terrorism in the region.