Thursday, January 20, 2022

Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s Visit To Boost Bilateral Ties

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Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse visited India with a high-level delegation and held discussions with the Indian leadership. Mr. Rajapakse called on President Ram Nath Kovind. He held wide-ranging discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar also held talks with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Modi said, India and Sri Lanka are neighbours since time immemorial, and also close friends. The history of our bilateral relationship has been woven with countless colourful threads like culture, religion, spirituality, art and language. Whether it is security or economy or social progress, our past and our future are connected to each other in every region. Stability, security and prosperity in Sri Lanka are not only in interest of India, but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean region and therefore, our close cooperation is valuable for peace and prosperity even in the Indo-Pacific region. In line with our Government’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All) doctrine. India attaches special priority to relations with Sri Lanka. India welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s resolve to work with India for regional security and development.

Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Rajapaksa discussed in detail, all aspects of the bilateral relations and international issues of mutual interest. Terrorism is a major danger in the South Asian region. Both countries have fought this problem firmly. There were painful and barbaric terrorist attacks on “Easter Day” in Sri Lanka in April last year. These attacks were not only a blow to Sri Lanka, but also to humanity. The two leaders discussed furthering bilateral cooperation against terrorism. Sri Lankan police officers have started participating in anti-terrorism courses in India’s premier training institutes. India is committed to further strengthening the contacts and cooperation between the agencies of the two countries.

Both leaders discussed Joint Economic Projects in Sri Lanka, and also on enhancing economic, business, and investment relations. They also discussed increasing the People-to-People connectivity, promoting tourism, and improving connectivity.

The recent direct flight between Chennai and Jaffna is part of the efforts in this direction. This direct flight will increase connectivity options for the Tamil population of the northern region of Sri Lanka and it will also be beneficial for the economic and social development of the region. The good response received to this flight is a matter of happiness for both the countries. The two Prime Ministers also discussed efforts to further enhance and improve our relationship.

India has been a trusted partner in Sri Lanka’s development efforts. The new Lines of Credit announced last year will give more strength to our development cooperation. New Delhi was happy that the Indian Housing Project for the construction of more than 48,000 houses for internally displaced people in the northern and eastern region of Sri Lanka has been completed. The construction of several thousand houses for Tamil people of Indian origin is also progressing in the up-country region. Prime Minister Rajapaksa and Mr. Modi also discussed the humanitarian issue of fishermen. This directly affects the livelihood of the people of both countries. New Delhi and Colombo agreed to continue Constructive and Humanitarian Approach on this issue.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister stressed that domestic compulsions to deliver also drive foreign policy decisions. He said, “We need development first. We have limited time. In five years, we have to give results otherwise the people will chase you out. That’s what happened to me. We will look at what serves Sri Lanka’s interests the best.” On the Chinese debt trap that Colombo faces, Mr. Rajapaksa said if it were for his government he would have never allowed it.

Both leaders spoke openly on issues related to reconciliation. The Indian Prime Minister expressed confidence that the Government of Sri Lanka will realize the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect within a united Sri Lanka. For this, it will be necessary to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst

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