Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today gave his strong backing to the Sri Lankan Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in New Delhi, Modi said that India was “deeply honoured” that Wickremesinghe had chosen India as his first overseas destination.
“It is a happy coincidence that your last full term as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister coincided with the first NDA Government. We thank you for your belief in and steadfast support for India-Sri Lanka relations. You are a deeply valued friend, whose vision for Sri Lanka’s progress and commitment to its pursuit is greatly admired in India,” he said.
Modi said that this is a historic year for India-Sri Lanka relations, as it is for Sri Lanka. He recalled that India had the honour of hosting President Sirisena on his maiden visit abroad in February while Modi visited Sri Lanka in March.
“Sri Lanka has voted twice this year for change, reforms, reconciliation and progress. There can be no stronger statement of Sri Lanka’s democratic tradition. There can be no clearer sign of Sri Lanka’s march towards a peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous future. As a close neighbour and friend, we wish Sri Lanka every success; rejoice in your progress; and, assure you of India’s unwavering support. So, we are pleased that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken a number of significant steps in recent times. The leadership has shown remarkable political unity, at a time of great hope,” he added.
The Indian Prime Minister said that he is confident that with the wisdom and will of the leadership in Sri Lanka and the support of the people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development, so that all Sri Lankans, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can live a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka.
“Your progress is important for our two countries, South Asia and our maritime region,” he added.
Modi also welcomed some significant developments in bilateral relations since March, including the currency swap arrangement.
“We also expressed hope that progress on key bilateral initiatives and projects will gather speed now. We both want deeper economic engagement. We would like to see our trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka. We discussed how we can achieve these goals in a more open and competitive Indian market, including through bilateral arrangements for trade and investments. I also sought his support for Indian investors, who are keen to participate in Sri Lanka’s economic development, especially in infrastructure, energy and transport sectors. I offered India’s full support to strengthen connectivity between our two countries to deepen human and economic links that will benefit all sections of our societies. I assured Prime Minister Wickremesinghe of continuing commitment to our development partnership – in infrastructure, railways, energy, community development projects, agriculture, capacity building, science and technology, space and civil nuclear field,” he said.
Modi also said that India and Sri Lanka will continue to nurture people-to-people ties. He noted that India and Sri Lanka just finished an absorbing test series.
“We shall all miss the great Kumar Sangakkara on the cricket field,” he said.
Modi also said that Sri Lanka and India recognise the closely aligned security interests and the need to remain sensitive to each other’s concerns.
“We both reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our defence and security cooperation. We will intensify cooperation in combating terrorism and work together for security and stability in our maritime neighbourhood. Sri Lanka is our largest partner in defence training programme and we will continue to expand our cooperation in this area,” he said.
Modi also said that he discussed the fishermen issue with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and agreed that fishermen’s associations on both sides should continue their efforts to find a solution.
“I conveyed to him that this should be seen as a humanitarian issue that affects livelihoods. I informed him of the steps we are taking to encourage Indian fishermen to take up deep sea fishing,” he said.
Modi said that with President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, both countries can look to the future with great optimism. (Colombo Gazette)