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Indian PM Modi looking to mend ties in historic visit to Sri Lanka

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in Sri Lanka for a historic visit, the first such trip by an Indian premier in nearly three decades. He will discuss economic, diplomatic and political ties.

In Colombo, Prime Minister Modi was greeted by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe, with a ceremonial welcome on Friday morning.

During the two-day trip, Modi will meet with

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

, who has pledged to work on

fixing ties between the two south Asian nations.

The trip is an attempt to reestablish Indian influence over Sri Lanka, which had grown closer to China under former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Earlier this week, at the start of his Indian Ocean island tour, Modi was positive the trip would help reaffirm Sri Lanka's importance to India.

"I am sure together we are gong to script a golden chapter in the history of India-Sri Lanka relations," he said.

The landmark visit comes just weeks after Sirisena announced he would travel to India in his first overseas tour since being elected.

Modi will address Sri Lanka's parliament and visit the Tamil-populated northern Jaffna region on Saturday.

The area suffered greatly during an almost 40-year separatist war in which India played a key role.

It's anticipated Modi will advocate for a total demilitarization of the zone, as well as for its Tamil citizens to gain further autonomy.

Following the end of the conflict in 2009, ties with India continued to deteriorate as Rajapaksa drew nearer to Beijing, racking up significant debts and helping fund several Chinese-led construction projects.

Sirisena has since attempted to renegotiate loan terms and suspended a $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros) urban development project.

Beijing has been a staunch defender of

Sri Lanka's human rights record

and treatment of Tamil civilians.

This issue led Modi's predecessor, Manmohan Singh, not to attend a summit hosted by Rajapaksa in 2013.

It is also likely Modi will bring up the issue of illegal fishing after 86 Indian fishermen were detained by Sri Lankan authorities two weeks ago and later released.

an/sms (dpa, AFP)

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