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    Prof.GL holds bilateral talks with Indian External Affairs Minister

    July 14, 2014

    External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris, at his meeting with Shrimathi Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India, in New Delhi on Friday 11 July, recalled with pleasure her visit to Sri Lanka two years ago as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as the head of an All-Party delegation. He referred to Shrimathi Swaraj’s constituency in the Lok Sabha, Vidisha, where Sanchi – the home of Emperor Ashoka’s children, Arhat Mahinda and Theri Sanghamitta – continues to receive a large number of Sri Lankan pilgrims every year.

    Minister Peiris said that the meeting in May between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Modi on the occasion of the latter’s swearing in ceremony was particularly constructive. He reiterated the President’s invitation to Prime Minister Modi to undertake an official visit to Sri Lanka.        


    The two Ministers in their survey of projects assisted by India, noted with satisfaction that the housing projects have entered their second phase and that much of the railways infrastructure projects have been completed ahead of schedule.


    Prof. Peiris thanked India for voting against Operative Paragraph 10 of the Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva in March, and indicated the steps being taken currently by Sri Lanka to continue and strengthen local mechanisms. He briefed his Indian counterpart on the Parliamentary Select Committee process in Sri Lanka and the need to ensure its inclusivity.


    On the subject of fisheries, Minister Peiris said that, since the assumption of office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed the release of 184 Indian fishermen held in Sri Lanka. The critical issues for Sri Lanka, he said, were deprivation of livelihoods of fishing communities in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka and irreparable damage to the seabed and the ocean floor by the use of such fishing methods as bottom trawling. He expressed appreciation of the release of 41 Sri Lankan fishermen held in Andhra Pradesh a few days ago. The two Ministers discussed the importance of finding a lasting solution to the problem of fishermen crossing into each other’s waters.


    With regard to issues relating to economic cooperation, reference was made to the discussion between finance and commerce secretaries last year. The ministers discussed a range of practical modalities for enhancing the volumes of trade and investment. In this regard there was satisfaction that investment is now a two-way process between the two countries.


    Since security and defence cooperation represents an important aspect of the bilateral relationship, the continuing open, transparent dialogue was appreciated. It was stated that the several defence-related mechanisms such as the annual Defence Secretary level dialogue, the Galle Dialogue on naval issues, the trilateral maritime security dialogue at National Security Adviser–Defence Secretary level and the provision to Sri Lanka of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and training of military personnel have consolidated the relationship in this area.


    On regional cooperation, there was a discussion of SAARC-related issues. Prof. Peiris complimented India on reinvigorating the Indian Ocean Rim Association during its Chairmanship. Following the workshop on the establishment of a Centre of Excellence on Ocean Sciences and the Environment in Colombo two weeks ago, he sought India’s support for the establishment of this Centre in Sri Lanka.


    With regard to education and cultural matters, the Ministers discussed scholarships and placements granted to Sri Lankan students annually under several schemes to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Indian universities.


    Since the last session of the Sri Lanka-India Joint Commission was held in Delhi in January last year, Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka would like to host the next session in Colombo before the end of the year.


    He extended a warm invitation to his counterpart to visit Sri Lanka early. (MEA/ST/KH)


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