COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will rise again and “cowardly acts of terror” cannot defeat its spirit, India’s prime minister said on Sunday, as he became the first foreign leader to visit the island after suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people in April.
Narendra Modi was tweeting snippets from his packed itinerary to Sri Lanka, which has been under a state of emergency since terrorists attacked churches and hotels on Easter Sunday on April 21.
His Twitter feed showed him paying his respects at one of the attack sites, St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, and meeting President Maithripala Sirisena. He was welcomed at the airport by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. “India never forgets her friends when they are in need,” Modi said on arrival.
“I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again,” Modi later tweeted. “Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”
Modi said that he and Sirisena agreed that terrorism was a joint threat that needed “collective and focused” action. “Reiterated India’s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future,” he added.
Suicide bombers inflicted devastating blasts on multiple sites in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. It was the country’s deadliest violence since the civil war ended in 2009.
Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted and its beaches, restaurants and shops are quiet. Tourism authorities said that visitor arrivals would drop between 30 and 50 percent in the two months after the bombings, Reuters news agency reported.
Namal Rajapaksa, parliamentarian and son of opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, said he was grateful for Modi’s “timely” gesture. “This visit won’t just strengthen bilateral ties but is also deeply significant for improving Sri Lanka’s overall image internationally hereafter,” he tweeted.
Modi, still fresh from his landslide election victory last month, also met members of the Indian community in Colombo and thanked them for burnishing India’s reputation on the world stage.
“It is always a delight to interact with the Indian diaspora. Today India’s position in the world is getting stronger and a large part of that credit goes to the Indian diaspora,” he told them.
Modi described the Sri Lanka visit as “short but immensely fruitful.”