BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, February 4: When Narendra Modi arrives in Colombo in mid-March on the first stand-alone bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister in 28 years, he may utilise the opportunity to visit Jaffna and either Kandy or Anuradhapura as well.
A top Indian diplomatic source told The Island today: “It all depends on how much time Mr Modi will get to spend in Sri Lanka.”
If he gets to go to Kandy, he will worship at Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, a Unesco World Heritage site. After the parinirvana of Gautama Buddha, the tooth relic was preserved in Kalinga (present day Odisha state in India) and smuggled to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali (by hiding it in her hair!) and her husband Prince Dantha on her father King Guhasiva’s instructions. They landed in the island in Lankapattana during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna (301-328), and handed over the tooth relic to the king.
Anuradhapura too figures in Modi’s list for a possible visit.
However, after Colombo, the Indian Prime Minister will most likely visit Jaffna and places in the Northern Province, where many India-aided projects are in various stages of construction and completition.
Nearly 42,000 of the 50,000 housing units being built for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with Indian grants of $270-million are in all the five districts of the civil war-ravaged Northern Province, namely: Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya. The remaining 8,000 housing units are being built in the Eastern, Central and Uva provinces.
Other projects in the Northern Province in various stages of construction with an Indian soft line of credit of $800 million include the rehabilitation of Northern Railway, the Kankesanthurai Harbour, and the Palaly Airport, construction of five Vocational Training Centres, renovation of the Duriappah Stadium in Jaffna, construction of a new Cultural Centre in Jaffna, restoration of the Tiruketheeswaram Temple, and the resumption of ferry services between Colombo-Tuticorin and Talaimannar- Rameswaram.