Imparting a renewed momentum to their bilateral ties, India and Sri Lanka have signed four agreements in areas of visa, customs, youth development and culture during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to the island country.
Mr Modi also pledged support for making Trincomalee into a petroleum hub and announced that New Delhi will provide a fresh Line of Credit of up to $ 318 million for the development of the railways sector in Lanka. India also agreed to a ‘Currency Swap Agreement’ of $1.5 billion to help keep the Sri Lankan economy stable.
Mr Modi held wide-ranging talks with Sri Lankan President MaithripalaSirisena in Colombo on March 13 that saw the two leaders charting a roadmap for galvanising their multifaceted ties. The four pacts, signed after the talks, included providing facility of travelling without visa to diplomats, cooperation in customs, youth development, and for establishing a Rabindranath Tagore museum.
The India-Sri Lanka relations had languished during the last few years of the MahindaRajapaksa presidency due to his overtly pro-China policies. Mr Sirisena underlined his intention known of building robust relations with New Delhi by making India his first foreign visit within weeks of taking charge as the president of the island nation.
Mr Modi’s trip to Sri Lanka is the first standalone bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to Sri Lanka since the last trip by Rajiv Gandhi in 1981.
The fishermen issue figured prominently in the discussions. Mr Modi stressed on finding a “long term solution” with “humanitarian considerations” on both sides.
The prime minister also urged the Sri Lankan leader to fast-track the political reconciliation process in Sri Lanka and stressed on an early and full implementation of the 13th amendment that provides a framework for devolution of powers to the provinces.
“We stand with you in your efforts to build a future that accommodates the aspirations of all sections of society, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, for a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka,” he said.
“We believe that early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment and going beyond it would contribute to this process,” Mr Modi added
Highlight of PM Modi’s speech at joint media interaction with President MaithripalaSirisena
- I am conscious of the significance of this visit. It is the first standalone bilateral visit to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987.
- Last month, President Sirisena honoured us by making India his first foreign visit as President. I am glad to be here so soon.
- The agreement today on cooperation between our customs authorities is a step in that direction. It will simplify trade and reduce non-tariff barriers on both sides.
- Today, Lanka IOC and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have agreed to jointly develop the Upper Tank Farm of the China Bay Installation in Trincomalee on mutually agreed terms.
- A Joint Task Force will be constituted soon to work out the modalities. India stands ready to help Trincomalee become a regional petroleum hub.
- I also look forward to early commencement of work on the ground in the Sampur Coal Power Project. This landmark project would meet Sri Lanka’s energy needs.
- The ocean economy is a new frontier that holds enormous promise for both of us. It is a priority for our two countries. Our decision to set up a Joint Task Force on Ocean Economy is a significant step, especially because of our proximity.
- We will extend the facility of “Tourist Visa on Arrival – Electronic Travel Authorization” Scheme to Sri Lankan citizens from the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April 2015.
- Air India will soon start direct flights between New Delhi and Colombo.
- We will cooperate in developing a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and a Buddhist Circuit in India.
- We will organize a Festival of India in Sri Lanka later this year. Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished. We will be organizing an exhibition showcasing our Buddhist heritage as part of this festival.
- The Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in youth affairs is an important long term investment in our relationship.
- We will provide a fresh Line of Credit of up to US$ 318 million for the railways sector. This will be used to procure rolling stock, and to restore and upgrade existing railway track.
- We are pleased to provide assistance for the construction of the Rabindranath Tagore auditorium at Ruhuna University in Matara.
- Tomorrow, I will visit, some of the projects, being financed by India, including the housing project. I am pleased that more than 27,000 houses have already been built.
- The Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka have agreed to enter into a Currency Swap Agreement of US$ 1.5 billion. This will help keep the Sri Lankan rupee stable.
- We discussed the fishermen’s issue. This complex issue involves livelihood and humanitarian concerns on both sides. We should handle it from this perspective. At the same time, we need to find a long term solution to this issue.
- It is also important that fishermen’s associations of India and Sri Lanka meet at the earliest to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It can then be taken forward by both governments.
- We stand with you in your efforts to build a future that accommodates the aspirations of all sections of society, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, for a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka.
- We believe that early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment and going beyond it would contribute to this process.
- I also conveyed India’s commitment to further strengthening our partnership in advancing peace and prosperity in our region, including our common maritime neighbourhood.
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