The Indian External Affairs Minister called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, engaged in bilateral discussions with his Sri Lankan counterpart and met with Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa. The visiting Minister also met other leading political party leaderships.
During the bilateral discussions which were held on Monday (7th October), the two Ministers, exchanged views on a wide range of areas encompassing the bilateral relations including economic, political, fisheries, aviation, tourism, defence and security, cultural cooperation and people to people contact and also assessed the progress made in the India-assisted projects in the country.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris conveyed Sri Lanka’s appreciation for the substantial Indian assistance of around US$ 1.5 billion provided for a range of development projects throughout Sri Lanka in sectors such as rail and road infrastructure, port development, agriculture, housing and healthcare etc and expressed the hope for continued assistance for the development in the Northern Province. The assistance being provided by the Government of India for construction and renovation of 50,000 housing units, he said was particularly helpful for the resettlement process in the Northern region as well as the estate community and other parts of Sri Lanka. In the health sector, the construction of a 150-bed hospital at Dickoya, he said is an important contribution to the health infrastructure in the Central region of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is interested in purchasing rolling stock from India for the northern railway line and for double-tracking the Colombo-Kandy railway line facilitated by an Indian credit line, he said.
Noting the successful implementation of the India-assisted development projects, the visiting Minister conveyed India’s willingness to continue development assistance on need-based requests.
On Defence cooperation, Minister Peiris observed that the several mechanisms such as the Defence-Secretary Level consultations, the Galle Dialogue, the Trilateral NSA-Level consultations on Maritime Security have added further impetus to enhance our existing cooperation. Minister Peiris conveyed appreciation for the training opportunities extended to Sri Lankan armed forces personnel in Indian defence establishments.
In the area of economic cooperation, the Minister emphasized the need for increasing the existing trade volumes and expanding investment particularly in the areas of textiles, pharmaceuticals and automobile parts.
During the discussions Minister Peiris explained that the issue of illegal poaching by Indian fishermen in SL waters is a cause for great concern for Sri Lanka. A large amount of time and effort is being spent in addressing this issue, he said. Given the high incidence of poaching in Sri Lankan waters by Indian fishermen, Minister Peiris emphasized the need for a deterrent as it directly affects the lives of Sri Lankan fisher communities who, after years of deprivation to their livelihood due to the conflict, are now beginning to rebuild their lives by engaging in their traditional livelihoods.
Minister Peiris briefed his counterpart on the rebuilding of democratic institutions and strengthening of the democratic processes in the Northern Province which had to be undertaken in the post-conflict period. He explained that the rehabilitation, resettlement, reintegration and the careful nurturing of the institutions and processes culminated in the very successful conclusion of the election of members to the North Provincial Council. He also pointed to the several special initiatives being taken to develop and sustain livelihoods and generate employment in the region by providing assistance to economic activity including agriculture with bank loans on concessionary terms for small and medium scale enterprises and self employment projects.
During the discussions the two sides expressed satisfaction on the conclusion of the MOU on the Technical assistance for the 10 year plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka and the MOUs related to the Trincomalee Coal Power Project which was signed during the visit.
The Sri Lanka delegation for the bilateral talks at the Ministry of External Affairs included Monitoring MP for External Affairs Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Secretary External Affairs Karunathilaka Amunugama, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Prasad Kariyawasam and Senior Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.
In Jaffna, Minister Khurshid and the delegation met the Governor of the Northern Province and the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.
The visiting Minister interacted with the beneficiaries of the Indian housing project and distributed certificates to beneficiaries receiving funding for the renovation of business premises.