India will adopt a ”wait and watch” approach on Sri Lanka following the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential election even as it is hopeful that the new dispensation will not allow any foreign military asset (read China) in the island nation which could have implications for New Delhi’s strategic interests.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first foreign leaders who congratulated Gotabaya, a former Defence Secretary and the younger brother of controversial former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on his electoral victory. In a congratulatory message, Modi said: ”Congratulations Gotabaya Rajapaksa on your victory… I look forward to working closely with you for deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries and citizens, and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.” Modi also later telephoned the younger Rajapaksa and congratulated him.
In response, Gotabaya tweeted: “I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India for your warm wishes. Our two nations are bound by history and common beliefs and I look forward to strengthening our friendship and meeting you in the near future.”
The elder Rajapaksa, when he was the President, had greatly upset India when he allowed Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lanka twice without informing India. The matter was raised at the highest level twice in 2014.
Though the Rajapaksas are seen as pro-China, officials in New Delhi believe the new Lankan leadership will not make any such strategic move that could impact India-Lanka ties.
New Delhi was quite certain for the past few months that Sri Lanka was moving towards a political transformation and the Rajapaksas could return to power in the wake of the gruesome Easter Sunday terror attacks in April. Therefore, it had been assiduously trying to dispel the notion that it was hostile to the Rajapaksas. These efforts led to Modi hosting Mahinda in September last year and meeting him during his visit to the island nation in June.