India, Sri Lanka step up cooperation in education, health sectors


Swaraj Lanka visit

Reinvigorating their relationship, India and Sri Lanka have stepped up cooperation in education and health sectors by signing two pacts. The pacts were signed during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Sri Lanka on February 5. The joint commission meeting, co-chaired by Ms Swaraj and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera,  discussed diverse areas such as economic cooperation, trade, power and energy, technical and maritime cooperation, social, cultural and educational matters, science and technology, defence cooperation, health, civil aviation, tourism and people-to-people contact.

The education pact entails India renovating 27 schools in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province. Under the healthcare pact, India will build a surgical ward and supply medical equipment to the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital in eastern Sri Lanka.

Focusing on enhancing bilateral trade, Sri Lanka proposed setting up a special economic zone (SEZ) in Trincomalee and increase cooperation in aviation sector. Mrs Swaraj is on her second visit to Sri Lanka within a year. She also  held talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Prime Minister’s Office ‘Temple Trees’. The two leaders had a comprehensive discussion during their meeting.  Mr Wickremesinghe sought Indian investments in Sri Lanka and proposed partnership in setting up a SEZ in Trincomalee. He also proposed to make the joint commission meeting an annual affair. India and Sri Lanka also discussed the possibility of state university linkages.

The two sides also discussed the contentious fishermen issue, which has been a thorn in the relations between the two countries. The fishermen’s associations of the two countries are in regular touch with each other, but have not been able to make any progress so far and reach a mutually-acceptable solution to end this problem.