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Sushma Swaraj leaves for Sri Lanka ahead of Narendra Modi visit


New Delhi, March 6: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday left for Sri Lanka to lay the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island nation next week. Modi will be in Sri Lanka on March 13-14, during which he will hold meetings with President Maithripala Sirisena and other senior leaders across the political spectrum. Modi is to address the Sri Lankan parliament on March 13. His will be the first state visit by an Indian prime minister after 1987 when then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the island nation.

Prime Minister Modi is also scheduled to visit Jaffna. The visit by Modi comes as Colombo has decided to suspend the $1.5 billion Colombo Port City Project with China, pending an examination of approval obtained by the Chinese project proponent. Sri Lankan government spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne announced in Colombo on Thursday that the cabinet had, on Wednesday, approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to immediately suspend implementation of the Colombo Port City Project (CPCP) being built on reclaimed land next to the Colombo harbour port.

The government is to advise the contractor China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC) to present, within a period of two weeks, all approvals that it had obtained from relevant institutions for implementation of the project, according to The Island daily. Wickremesinghe had said that the CPCP had been signed without cabinet approval and following due procedure. India has opposed part of the agreement that would give ownership of 20 hectares of land on a freehold basis to the Chinese contractor, a state owned company. India uses the Colombo Port primarily for trans-shipment purposes, said The Island.

President Sirisena announced recently that all projects entered into with China, including the CPCP, would be thoroughly re-assessed during his scheduled official visit to Beijing this month. Sushma Swaraj will hold talks with her counterpart Mangala Samaraweera, who visited India in January after the new government of President Sirisena took over. Sirisena visited India in February on his maiden foreign trip after taking over in January.

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