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Last Updated Friday May 12 2017 08:32 AM IST

As Modi arrives in Colombo, Lanka refuses China's request for submarine docking

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pm-modi-colombo Prime minister Narendra Modi being received by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe upon his arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo on Thursday. PTI

Colombo: Sri Lanka refused permission for a Chinese submarine to dock at Colombo next week after a similar visit in 2014 angered India, a top defense official said Thursday.

Chinese authorities had sought clearance for a port call at Colombo where a Chinese state-owned company operates a mega container terminal, the official said asking not to be named.

"They have asked for permission, but we have said no," the official told AFP. "It is a very sensitive matter." He did not elaborate.

The rejection came as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was visiting Sri Lanka as chief guest of Vesak, the island's main Buddhist celebration marking the birth, enlightenment and the passing of the Buddha.

The request for the Chinese submarine visit was for next week, after Modi's departure Friday evening, official sources said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Colombo, but two submarine calls at the Colombo harbor in 2014 had reportedly angered India which considered it as undermining their security.

India is said to have been worried about Beijing's growing influence on Colombo under the former regime of strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka's new president Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising to loosen ties with China after a decade of hefty funding by Beijing under his predecessor.

However, analysts have noted that Beijing's influence was on the rise again as Colombo struggles to find alternative sources of much needed foreign capital.

Modi at Sri Lankan temple

Modi Thursday took part in a traditional lamp lighting ceremony at a Buddhist temple here as part of the International Vesak Day celebrations.

As Modi put a switch on, the entire complex of the Gangaramaya temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, was lit up by colourful lights, which was followed by fireworks in the sky.

According to Indian state broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi, who was accompanied by Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, also offered prayers at the temple.

The Gangaramaya temple was established in the late 19th century by one of the most famous scholar monks, Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumanagala Nayaka Thera.

The Indian prime minister will also pray at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic at Kandy in central Sri Lanka. The golden-roofed Kandy temple houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic -- a tooth of Lord Buddha.

In Pallekelle, Modi will unveil a plaque commemorating the foundation laying of the Faculty of Kandyan Dance at the Sri Lankan International Buddhist Academy that will be constructed with India's grant assistance.

Modi will also open an India-funded 150-bed multi-speciality hospital at Dickoya in the central hill district which is home to Tamil tea plantation workers of Indian origin.

Although no bilateral talks are scheduled, the visit is expected to give renewed momentum in India-Sri Lanka ties.

Last month, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visited India.

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