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Sri Lanka, India Commit to Deeper Ties

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, left and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for the media before their talks in New Delhi, India, Sept. 15, 2015.

India and Sri Lanka are emphasizing their commitment to deepen ties during the Sri Lankan prime minister's visit to New Delhi. In the Indian capital, relations between the two countries have received a huge boost following the electoral defeat of Sri Lanka’s former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was closer to China.

After holding talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he hopes to conclude an economic partnership deal with India by the end of the year.

The Sri Lankan leader arrived in New Delhi for his first overseas visit after winning elections last month. He heads a national government formed with both of Sri Lanka’s major parties and said that building stronger and deeper ties with India is now an “all-party effort.”

“I think we are in a unique position that this government has a mandate from the people to continue trade and investment arrangements with India,” he said.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ouster as president in January paved the way for India and Sri Lanka to repair a relationship that had frayed during his tenure as he leaned toward China.

India is now trying to reverse the growing Chinese influence in the tiny island country, located strategically on its southern tip in the Indian Ocean.

Calling this a “historic year” for ties between the two nations, Modi called for deepening partnerships in a host of areas ranging from infrastructure, railways, energy, and the civil nuclear field. “We both want deeper economic engagement. We would like to see our trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka,” he stated.

Colombo has been heavily dependent on Beijing for funding its projects, but the new government is trying to reduce its dependency on Chinese investment. However, political analysts say even as Colombo improves ties with India and seeks a more balanced foreign policy, it will continue to do business with China.