India, Sri Lanka discuss fresh moves to boost ties

Saturday, 6 February 2016 03:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday called on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who sought Indian investment and offered partnership in setting up a Special Economic Zone. The Prime Minister also briefed her on the latest political developments in the country. 

Swaraj, who arrived in Colombo yesterday on her second visit to the country within a year, held talks with Wickremesinghe at the Prime Minister’s Office at Temple Trees where the two leaders had a “fruitful exchange of views,” according to the Press Trust of India.

During their 50-minute long meeting, the Premier sought Indian investment in Sri Lanka and proposed partnership in setting up an SEZ in Trincomalee, officials said.


India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (L) talks to with Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during their meeting in Colombo, 

Sri Lanka February 5, 2016 - REUTERS

“Their talks began with a discussion on the Indo-Lanka Joint Commission meeting. The Prime Minister said it was a very important forum for the two sides to advance bilateral partnership in all areas,” said the officals. 

Wickremesinghe also proposed to make the Joint Commission meeting an annual affair. The two leaders also talked about state university linkages. 

The joint commission was set up in 1992 as a mechanism to address issues of bilateral cooperation. The last meeting of the Joint Commission was held in New Delhi in January 2013. 

Wickremesinghe briefed Swaraj on the latest political developments in Sri Lanka. 

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister had last month said his government was ready to devolve power to minority Tamils BUP_DFTDFT-1-02under a new Constitution, aimed at resolving the ethnic conflict and achieving reconciliation with Tamils. 

Swaraj, who arrived yesterday on a two-day visit, was received by her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera at the airport. 

The two leaders co-chaired the 9th Joint Commission meeting to discuss key bilateral and regional issues. 

The talks will cover the entire gamut of the relationship pertaining to 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 fishermen issue is expected to figure during Joint Commission meeting. The fishermen issue continues to be a major irritant in Indo-Lanka ties. 

Sri Lanka accuses Indian fishermen of straying into its territorial waters, while India maintains they are only fishing in their traditional areas, especially around Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Colombo in 1974. 

Though the fishermen’s associations of the two sides are in regular touch with each other, they have not been able to reach a mutually-acceptable solution to end this problem. 

Swaraj will also call on President Maithripala Sirisena and former president Chandrika Kumaratunga besides meeting other top leaders. 

On Saturday, the Indian Minister will inaugurate a “Rise of Digital India” exhibition as part of “Sangam — Festival of India in Sri Lanka 2015—16”.

The exhibition will showcase the rise of the computing sector and digital technologies in India.

India-Sri Lanka relations had seen lows during last few years of the tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was voted out of power, even as China had expanded its footprint in the country by building ports, highways and participating in other infrastructure projects. 

Ties gained momentum after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka in March last year, the first bilateral tour by an Indian premier in over 25 years. Swaraj had visited Sri Lanka in March 2015