Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a last-minute change to the timing of his traditional `Thaipongal` reception on Monday to ensure that External Affairs Minister S M Krishna attends it.
Usually held in the morning, the timing of the reception was changed to late afternoon yesterday in time for Krishna`s arrival here, and the Indian Minister today expressed gratitude to Rajapaksa for according him the honour.
"Yesterday, I had the gracious invitation from the President to participate in Pongal celebrations. I acknowledge the gratitude and the gesture the President showed on me," Krishna, who is here on a four-day visit, told a press conference held jointly with his counterpart G L Peiris.
He said the President "was gracious enough" to shift the reception hosted usually in the morning to evening to ensure his participation.
"This is the relationship where protocol takes backseat and goodwill and affection takes the front seat," he said.
Krishna also lavished praise on his counterpart Peiris calling him a "good friend" from whom he learned many things.
"It is my good fortune to have known Prof Pieris since he took over as Foreign Minister and since then we have developed an excellent personal relationship. I have great admiration for his wisdom and scholarship," he said.
Peiris returned the compliment by calling Krishna a "close friend" and a "relative". In his speech, Peiris said the relationship between India and Sri Lanka would only grow in the coming months.