Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started a two-day visit to Sri Lanka in an effort to regain influence and mend relations that have been strained due to increased Chinese presence in India's neighborhood.

Modi became the first Indian leader to visit Sri Lanka in 28 years. He was welcomed Friday by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and received by President Maithripala Sirisena at his office in ceremonies that included gun salutes and a guard of honor.

Relations between the two countries have been rocky for the past three decades largely due to an ethnic Tamil separatist rebellion. Sri Lankan Tamils have linguistic and family connections with the sizable Tamil population in India.

Ties further deteriorated under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose pro-Chinese policies threatened India's say in the region.