President and BIMSTEC leaders pledge to strengthen bilateral relations

Thursday, 6 March 2014 00:56 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Mahinda Rajapaksa held bilateral discussions with several leaders on the sidelines of the third BIMSTEC Summit in Myanmar. During these discussions leaders agreed to strengthen existing relations both within and outside the BIMSTEC framework in all areas where there is potential for cooperation. For the first meeting President Rajapaksa met the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Myanmar International Convention Centre. Two leaders exchanged views on matters of mutual interest as well as fishermen issue between the two countries and cooperation between the Sri Lankan Government and the Northern Provincial Council. Bilateral discussions with the Myanmar President Thein Sein took place at the Presidential Palace. President Rajapaksa while noting that this is the third time he was visiting Myanmar congratulated the Myanmar President for the successful conclusion of the third BIMSTEC Summit. The President recalling the longstanding historical and cultural relations between Myanmar and Sri Lanka said: “Myanmar was one of the first countries to open an embassy in Colombo after Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948.” President Rajapaksa said that the time has come to identify new areas of cooperation. The President proposed the setting up a joint commission and the establishment of direct air links between the two countries. The importance of maintaining political dialogue at the high level as well as people-to-people contacts was also emphasised. President Thein Sein while welcoming President Rajapaksa’s idea to set up a joint commission expressed Myanmar’s willingness to learn from Sri Lanka’s rich experience in the areas of education, management, tea and rubber cultivation and ports development. “We are close brothers. We should continue this candid and open dialogue,” said the Myanmar President. He also expressed his solidarity with Sri Lanka at international fora. President Rajapaksa apprised the Myanmar President of the progress achieved by Sri Lanka following the defeat of terrorism. The Myanmar President updated the Sri Lankan President on the political transformations that are taking place in his country after returning to the democratic rule three years ago. Bilateral discussions between President Rajapaksa and Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala were held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre. President Rajapaksa congratulated the Prime Minister on his election to the high office and offered Sri Lanka’s support for the development process in Nepal. The President highlighted investment, trade, education and information technology as areas for strengthening further cooperation. President Rajapaksa requested Nepal’s assistance to the Lumbini Development Project initiated by Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa while thanking Nepal for its support extended to Sri Lanka at international fora explained how Sri Lanka is being subjected to undue pressure over human rights issues by the external forces. “After a difficult and complicated period, Nepal is now struggling to achieve peace, stability and development,” Prime Minister Koirala said. He requested Sri Lanka’s assistance in areas where the country enjoys expertise. Bilateral discussions between President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajed were also held at the same venue. The Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed gratitude for the assistance received from Sri Lanka in the aftermath of recent natural disasters in her country. The Prime Minister while pointing out that intermittent political disturbances have slowed down the progress of Bangladesh said her government is now working towards achieving peace, stability and rapid development. “We seek your help in this endeavour,” the Prime Minister told the Sri Lankan President. President Rajapaksa expressed his intentions to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and thanked for giving an opportunity for Sri Lankan students to read for medical science degrees in Bangladesh. President said, under his government computer literacy in Sri Lanka has increased from 3% to 40%. Two leaders exchanged views on the possibility of establishing a trust fund to support cooperation in the field of education. Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Kshenuka Seneviratne and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar H.R. Piyasiri were also present at the bilateral discussions.