COLOMBO: India’s Pri­me Minister Narendra Modi made an unexpected visit on Sunday to a Colombo church bombed during the Easter suicide attacks on his first trip to neighbouring Sri Lanka since his election triumph.

Modi’s cavalcade made a detour to St Anthony’s shrine on the way to Pres­ident Maithripala Siri­sena’s sea-front office in the capital, where a red carpet military parade awaited.

“I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again,” Modi said on Twitter where he posted photos of himself at the church.

“Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who received Modi at Colo­mbo’s airport, said the two of discussed ways to combat militant attacks like the assault on the three hotels and three churches which left 258 dead and 500 injured.

“The two leaders discussed the collective steps to stamp out international terrorism,” Wick­rem­esinghe’s office said in a statement.

It added that the two leaders held most of their talks in Modi’s limousine while driving the 33 kilometres between the capital and the airport.

Modi stopped in Colombo on his return from an official visit to the Maldives, where he inaugurated a radar system and military training centre. The two projects, costing $26 million, were funded by India.

His brief but politically significant visit to the two neighbours came less than 10 days after Modi secured a second landslide election win and as New Delhi seeks to fend off Chinese influence in the region.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019