Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday became the first foreign leader to visit Sri Lanka since the 21 April Easter Sunday terror attacks.

The PM, who arrived in Colombo on Sunday from the Maldives, visited St. Anthony’s Shrine and paid tributes to those who lost their lives in the bombings.

“Started the Sri Lanka visit by paying my respect at one of the sites of the horrific Easter Sunday Attack, St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and the injured,” the PM tweeted.

 

He affirmed that India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka and that acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of the island nation.

“I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again. Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka,” he added in another tweet.

 

The PM was accompanied to the church by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who also received him at the airport.

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena later welcomed PM Modi at the Presidential Secretariat, where he was accorded ceremonial welcome.

The PM then planted a sapling at the Presidential Secretariat in President Sirisena’s presence.

PM Modi is visiting the island nation to further strengthen New Delhi’s relations with Colombo.

“Happy to be back in Sri Lanka, my third visit to this beautiful island in four years. Share the warmth shown by the people of Sri Lanka in equal measure. India never forgets her friends when they are in need. Deeply touched by the ceremonial welcome,” Modi tweeted earlier today.

 

During his day-long visit, the PM will hold talks with President Sirisena, PM Wickremesinghe and Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lankan President had attended PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi on 30 May.

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa, and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war ended in 2009.

The Islamic State has claimed the attacks, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) for the bombings.

Modi arrived in Colombo from Maldives where he held wide-ranging talks with Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Saturday.

The PM was conferred the Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen – the Maldives’s highest civilian honour for a foreigner.