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The Sri Lankan government has made arrangements to hold the United Nation’s 14th International Vesak celebrations on May 12th, 13th and 14th. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the Chief Guest at the inaugural ceremony to be held on May 12th at the BMICH which will be attended by several diplomats from Nepal.

The United Nation’s 13th International Vesak celebrations were held in Bankok in Thailand last year. Our Minister of Buddhasasana Wijedasa Rajapakshe proposed to hold the 14th celebrations in Sri Lanka. The United Nation’s International Vesak celebrations were initiated in 1999 on a proposal made by one of our distinguished foreign ministers late Mr. Luxman Kadirgamar.

It is a significant opportunity for Sri Lanka to hold this celebration as the pioneer of initiating this international celebration by which Sri Lanka stands to gain international recognition. This forum will help Sri Lanka as a nation practising Theravada Buddhism long since build closer relationship with other Buddhist countries in social, economical, cultural, educational and spiritual spheres.

World renowned academics from over hundred countries are scheduled to attend the meeting. This forum will be a good platform to publicize our Buddhist traditions and practices to the world.

Modi’s participation to the forum has become a more controversial issue than the event. Wimal Weerawansa, MP recently appealed to the masses to hoist black flags against Modi’s visit to our country. This is a foolish utterance as it is unwise to settle scores with the government capitalizing Modi’s visit and gain political advantages.

We learnt a bitter lesson from Indira Gandhi during her regime when JR and R. Premadasa made vituperative statements against India. Indira took revenge not from them but from Sri Lanka by supporting Tamil terrorists and trained them in India. A Navy sailor once tried to attack then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv. These incidents led to a sour relationship between the two countries till recently. On such a background Wimal’s statements will be detrimental to the cordial relationship now exists with our neighbour. In order to go forward we cannot ignore India specially Modi’s India.

Modi came to power in 2014 with a overwhelming majority with strong Hindu backing. He is a man with a vision and strong leadership character. We have to maintain a very cordial relationship with India for our economic benefits.

We made two blunders in diplomatic relations with India. During JR’s time we sidelined India to please America. India flexed its muscle by dropping parippu violating our air space. Though JR sought American help to no avail and had to eat humble pie by signing the Indo-Lanka Pact.

Now India is a fast developing country. It is economically strong. Sri Lanka’s long relations with India run into centuries.

Modi visited Sri Lanka in March 2015 as the leader of the most populous democratic state and addressed our parliament. He made some significant statements in our parliament. Modi pointed out that for trifle reasons like Indian fishermen poaching in our seas should not be reasons to confrontations. India was not happy about Mahinda Rajapaksa’s China-centred policies that worsened by China building the Colombo Port City and the Nelum Tower projects. After the fall of  Mahinda regime Modi visited Sri Lanka to strengthen the ties with us.

India is a strong player in the South Asia and a strongman in international politics. India’s concern about his neighbours is understandable. Some sections of our country are against India due to apprehensions about the treaties the government is going to sign with India regarding Trincomalee oil tanks and other similar issues.

However, President Sirisena emphasized recently that his government is not sign any agreements during Modi’s visit.

The Indian Express website as well as an Indian diplomat visited Sri Lanka recently expressed Indian’s growing anxiety over Chine influence on Sri Lanka.

Modi is slated to open a hospital in Hatton-Dickoya built under Indian aid during his visit. That singularly  shows Modi’s desire to be a friendly neighbour.

 (Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)