All Eyes on Doval-Sirisena Meet

maithripala sirisenaAlthough the Indian National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval, will be in Sri Lanka on December 1 and 2 primarily to give the keynote address at a meet on maritime security, public attention will be on the talks he is expected to have with the combined opposition’s Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena and the latter’s principal supporter, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Propped up by the opposition United National Party (UNP), the Sirisena-Kumaratunga duo wants to split incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), capture the Lankan Presidency in the January 8, 2015 election and carry out far reaching constitutional changes to restore democracy.

“Doval will meet Sirisena and Kumaratunga together on Monday. He will be meeting the UNP leaders separately the same evening,” a UNP MP told Express on Saturday.

The NSA will meet the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and possibly the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress also. Talks with President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa will take place on Tuesday before he flies to the Maldives.

Doval’s meeting with Sirisena and Kumaratunga will be of particular significance because the up-coming Presidential election is posing an unprecedented challenge to President Rajapaksa, the ruling party’s candidate. Heading the breakaway faction of the ruling SLFP, Sirisena and Kumaratunga hope to motivate a good chunk of the party’s cadre and voters to abandon Rajapaksa and cast their lot with the breakaway faction and the combined  opposition.

While Kumaratunga is very familiar to the Indian establishment, having been President of Sri Lanka from 1995 to 2005, Sirisena is a relatively unknown personality. India’s chief intelligence operative and security expert would certainly want to know the new kid on the block.

Doval would also want to know from Sirisena and Kumaratunga their views on India-Lanka relations in the context of Rajapaksa’s marked lurch towards Beijing in economic and strategic terms, and whether Colombo under Sirisena would be any different.

The National Security Advisor would also like to know whether Sirisena would push for the full implementation of the 27-year-old 13th amendment of the constitution meant to give more powers to the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces in the island nation. (New Indian Express)

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