New Delhi, February 8
India and Sri Lanka today held talks on fostering closer regional security, accelerating work on joint projects and deliberating on reconciliation of Tamils in the Sri Lankan mainstream.
Having extended a $450-million credit line last December during Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed expediting its quick utilisation with visiting Lankan PM and Gotabaya's elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is here on a five-day visit.
Significantly, this credit line also includes counter-terrorism assistance of $50 million, which will enable India edge closer to Colombo in strategic security. While assuring Sri Lanka of cooperating closely on counter-terrorism, India sought devolution of power to the minority Tamils.
India's insistence on reconciliation of Lankan Tamils since the end of the bruising war between the LTTE and the security forces in 2009 has in the past led to a distancing between the two countries which the Modi government hopes will be neutralised by the $50-million credit line for counter-terrorism.
In his brief speech, PM Modi noted this aspect by recalling the "Easter Day" bombings in Lanka last year and expressed satisfaction with police officers having started participating in anti-terrorism courses in India's premier training institutes.
"We are also committed to further strengthening the contacts and cooperation between the agencies of the two countries," the PM noted. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has already visited Colombo after the Rajapaksas regained the Presidency in December last year.
Rajapaksa said some of their deliberations were on security issues and noted consistent Indian cooperation in countering terrorism. "It is our closest neighbour, long-standing friend; as close historical links provided solid foundation to our ties," he observed.
In a post on the social media, he said: "The broad-ranging discussions focused on expediting ongoing projects and cooperation in a number of sectors such as tourism."
On the prickly Tamil issue, PM Modi hoped their aspirations for equality, justice and respect would be fulfilled as per provisions of the country's Constitution and Colombo would take forward the reconciliation process.
Mahinda's visit was looked upon with great interest since it was under his presidency that Lanka had allotted some mega projects to Chinese companies amidst commentary that these contracts were pushing Sri Lanka into a debt trap. Later, the Lankan PM called on President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Earlier, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called on Rajapaksa. After his Delhi engagements, Rajapaksa will travel to Varanasi, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya and Tirupati. — TNS
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