Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna arrived at the Katunayaka Bandaranaike International Airport in a special aircraft at 4.40 p.m. yesterday with a 20-member delegation on a three-day visit. He was received at the airport by his Sri Lankan counterpart Prof. G.L. Peiris. Officials of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka too were at the airport to welcome the Indian Foreign Minister. Minister Krishna is to hold talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, senior Ministers, and senior government officials.
During his visit Krishna is scheduled to travel to the conflict-affected Northern Province to launch several development projects funded by India. He is to launch a project funded by India to build 50,000 houses for the Tamil civilians displaced by the decades-long civil war against Tamil Tigers. India had pledged US$ 250 million for the project.
The Indian Minister will also inaugurate the Northern railway line construction project to reconstruct the railway line to Jaffna during his visit to the North. India has pledged a US$ 425 million line of credit for the reconstruction of railway infrastructure in northern Sri Lanka.
He is also expected to observe the progress of the resettlement of displaced Tamil people and hold discussions on the utilisation of Indian funds. The Indian government has emphasised the need to assist Sri Lanka’s conflict-affected people beyond rehabilitation and Krishna is expected to hold discussions with President Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister during his visit on moves beyond resettlement and towards a political solution to the ethnic conflict.
During his visit Krishna will co-chair the Seventh Session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission with his Sri Lankan counterpart Prof. G.L. Peiris.
The session will provide an opportunity to review the growing ties between the two countries and monitor implementation of bilateral understandings further enhancing the bilateral relations, a statement issued by Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry said. The visiting Minister will also open the Indian consulates in Hambantota in the South and Jaffna in the North before leaving on Saturday (27). He will also sign several bilateral agreements during the visit.
Krishna’s visit to Sri Lanka just a week after the government inaugurated a Chinese-built Hambantota Harbor in Southern Sri Lanka is seen as a measure to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and counter the growing influence of China on the island country. (www.colombopage)