COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka extended an "unqualified apology" to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday over an article and uncomplimentary illustration of the leader and a regional Tamil politician published on a government website.
The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry said it had taken down the offending caricature of Mr Modi and the chief minister of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Ms Jayalalithaa Jayaram, following complaints to Colombo.
It also removed an accompanying article entitled: "How meaningful are Jayalalithaa's love letters to Narendra Modi?". The article and illustration implied that Mr Modi was being easily controlled by Ms Jayalalithaa.
The Tamil minister has been increasing pressure on New Delhi to demand an international probe into allegations that Sri Lankan troops, largely Sinhalese, killed at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the final stages of the civil war in 2009.
"We extend an unqualified apology to the Hon Prime Minister of India and Hon Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the defence ministry website www.defence.lk said.
It added that the article had been published "without appropriate authorisation".
A formal protest had been lodged with Colombo prompting Sri Lankan authorities to make the unprecedented move of apologising to neighbouring India.
Ties between the two south Asian neighbours have been strained due to fishermen from both countries poaching in each others' waters as well as Sri Lanka's treatment of its minority Tamils who share close cultural ties with Tamil Nadu.
The Sri Lankan authorities are holding 50 Indian fishermen, arrested on Monday for entering the island's territorial waters in seven trawlers.