PM Modi visits Easter bombing site, says cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat spirit of Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the horrific Easter attacks, on Sunday. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)

Saying that cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to the victims of the deadly church bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Modi is the first foreign leader to visit Sri Lanka after the terror attacks in April.

After taking a detour of St Anthony’s church – one of the sites of the horrific attacks – PM Modi said, "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." "My heart goes out to the families of the victims and the injured," he added.

More than 250 people were killed after nine suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts across churches and hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war ended in 2009. While the Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attacks, the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) for the bombings.

After the church visit, the Prime Minister was accorded a ceremonial reception at the President’s House. He held bilateral talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and Modi also planted a sapling of the Ashoka tree at the Presidential Secretariat.

Modi was greeted by President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)

According to official sources, Modi’s visit to Malpes and Sri Lanka demonstrates the priority that India attaches to the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine.

"President Sirisena and I agreed that terrorism is a joint threat that needs collective and focussed action. Reiterated India s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future," the Prime Minister tweeted after the meeting.

Modi also held "fruitful discussions" with his Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe. "Assured India’s full support to further strengthen bilateral development partnership including through people-oriented projects in Sri Lanka," Modi said after his meeting with Wickremesinghe.

Addressing the Indian diaspora at India House in Colombo, Modi said, "I am happy to share that the Indian community overseas and the Government of India are on the same page when it comes to several issues."

Modi also met former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)

"Today India s position in the world is getting stronger and a large part of that credit goes to the Indian diaspora. Wherever I go, I am told about the successes and accomplishments of the Indian diaspora," he further said.

Modi held talks with former President and Leader of Opposition in Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa. "Had an extensive meeting with the Leader of Opposition, Mahinda Rajapaksa. We discussed the need for close collaboration between India and Sri Lanka in the fields of counter-terrorism, security and economic development," Modi tweeted.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar took to Twitter to share a photograph in which Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is seen holding an umbrella and providing cover to himself and Modi from rain.

President Sirisena held an umbrella to protect himself and Modi from the rain on Sunday. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)

"Together with you – come rain or shine. Some glimpses of the ceremonial welcome extended to PM @narendramodi at the President’s Office in #Colombo. With gracious host Sri Lankan President @MaithripalaS," Kumar tweeted.

Modi also received a special gift, a replica of the Samadhi Buddha Statue, from "special friend" Sirisena.

"A special gift from a special friend. President @MaithripalaS presented PM @narendramodi the Samadhi Buddha Statue. This is considered to be one of the best sculptures in the Anuradhapura era. The original statue was sculptured between the 4th and 7th centuries AD," the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.