India, Lanka review bilateral issues

IndiaIndia and Sri Lanka reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral issues, including defence and economic co-operation and the contentious fishermen’s issue, besides signing two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj concluded a two-day visit to this island nation on Saturday.

Swaraj, who led an inter-ministerial delegation and co-chaired the ninth session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission with her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera on Friday, also held a series of meetings with Sri Lankan leaders, including President Maithripala Sirisena, and delegations of political parties.

“The joint commission acknowledged the depth, intensity and uniqueness of the multifaceted India-Sri Lanka relations encompassing all spheres and founded upon civilisational and close people-to-people linkages,” a statement issued by the Indian high commission on Saturday said.

Both sides took stock of the preparations under way to begin negotiations on the economic and technology co-operation agreement, according to the statement.

“India will be holding a workshop in early March in Colombo on non-tariff barriers (NTB) and phytosanitary barriers (PTB), regulations and procedures,” it stated.

Cognisance was taken of the reconstitution of the CEOs Forum on either side and the the two sides discussed ways for further collaboration in various projects that have been under discussion, including the upgrade of Palali airport, infrastructure development at Kankesanturai port, Sampur power plant and a special economic zone in Trincomalee.

Defence being a key area of co-operation, the joint commission encouraged further intensification of co-operation through the several defence related mechanisms already in place.

The two sides also agreed on the need to work together in the area of counter-terrorism.

Both sides agreed to enhance co-operation in the aviation sector and called for early signing of the revised air services agreement that has been pending since September 2013.

Renewable energy co-operation was identified as a promising area for further co-operation India thanked Sri Lanka for having endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-initiated International Solar Alliance.

The Indian housing project for construction and repair of 50,000 houses was reviewed with the joint commission expressing satisfaction over the completion of 44,000 houses.

In the tourism sector, the two sides discussed collaboration on establishing the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist Circuit in South Asia.

The joint commission felt that the small development projects (SDP) scheme had been an excellent model for the development partnership.

Projects under the SDP model include establishment of Civil and Mechanical Engineering complex and Skill Development Centre of the Faculty of Agriculture, both in Kilinochchi campus of University of Jaffna, and construction of Rabindranath Tagore Memorial Auditorium at the University of Ruhuna.

“The joint commission also reviewed prominent non-SDP projects such as the construction of the Jaffna Cultural Centre on grant basis and the water supply projects amounting to nearly $475 million to be undertaken by Indian companies under the Buyers’ Credit Scheme of EXIM Bank of India,” the statement said. (Gulf Today)

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