Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 26
Prime Minister Narendra Modi resolved to pursue closer bilateral ties with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa through a mutually agreed 11-point agenda that will seek to address important issues like the Tamil question, ban on Indian imports, the Colombo port project and harassment of fishermen.
Most of the 11 points stated in the joint statement, touched on programmes to provide social and medical assistance to Sri Lanka, including a $ 100-million credit line, step up people-to-people contact and increase coordination between their militaries and security agencies.
They also resolved to improve the environment for trade and investment, look into the import bans imposed by Sri Lanka and deepen the integration of supply chains.
Mahinda Rajapaksa gave no firm assurance on Indo-Japanese involvement in the Colombo Port project seen as a counter balance to Hambantota port being allotted to the Chinese. Nor was there a firm commitment to resolving the Tamil question almost a decade after the end of the civil war.
On the Port project, the joint statement merely resolved to work towards the “early realisation of infrastructure and connectivity projects” through bilateral agreements and MoUs.
In response to PM Modi’s call on the Sri Lankan government to address the aspirations of the Tamil people, Rajapaksa eschewed any commitment on the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. “Sri Lanka will work towards realising the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils,” he responded.
The interaction saw considerable focus on the soft aspects of diplomacy such as exploring opportunities in common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga. PM Modi announced in this respect that a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka will be aboard the inaugural international flight to the sacred city of Kushinagar, which has recently been announced as an International Airport. PM Modi also announced a grant $ 15 million for promoting Buddhist ties between the two countries.
The two leaders also agreed to facilitate tourism by enhancing connectivity and by early establishment of an air bubble.
They also resolved to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces through personal visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Sri Lanka in the spheres of defence and security.
Recognising that BIMSTEC is an important platform for regional cooperation linking South Asia with South East Asia, both leaders agreed to work together to ensure a successful BIMSTEC Summit to be hosted under the Chairmanship of Sri Lanka.