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India and Lanka to sign 5 agreements during president’s visit

NEW DELHI, June 5: India and Sri Lanka will sign at least five agreements during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official visit to this country this week, informed sources told The Sunday Island here today.

In all, 11 agreements were being negotiated to further enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries. They were to be signed during the presidential visit. But only five could be finalized so far. Negotiations are continuing on the remaining six agreements, which may be completed and signed later in the year.

The president arrives here on the evening of Tuesday (June 8), and will return home on Friday (June 11). On Wednesday (June 9), he will be given a ceremonial guard of honour in the forecourt of the regal Rashtrapati Bhavan here, and received by President Mrs Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his senior cabinet colleagues.

Rajapaksa will then go to Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi by laying a wreath at the "samadhi" of the "Father of the Nation," as Indians fondly remember him.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will call on President Rajapaksa at the ITC Maurya, the hotel where the president and his delegation will stay.

The president will have talks with Indian Prime Minister Dr Singh at the Hyderabad House. The two leaders will be accompanied by their respective delegations.

A host of Indian dignitaries will call on the president on Wednesday afternoon. They include Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, among others.

Apart from his wife Shiranthi, Rajapaksa will be accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs G.L. Peiris and Sajin Vas Gunawardena, the president’s coordinating secretary and MP from the Galle district, and a few others.

A team comprising Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunge and a few other senior officials is arriving here on Sunday night for more talks with the Indians and to give finishing touches to the president’s programme.

The five agreements that will be signed on Wednesday are:

1. Agreement for cooperation to fight terrorism;

2. Agreement for transfer of sentenced prisoners;

3. Agreement for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters;

4. Agreement for cultural cooperation; and

5. Agreement on Indian assistance for small development projects in Sri Lanka.

The second agreement will enable Sri Lankans sentenced for offences committed in India and Indians imprisoned for crimes committed in Sri Lanka to serve their prison terms in their respective countries.

The agreement on ferry services connecting Talaimannar in Sri Lanka with Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and Kochi in Kerala will take a little more time to be finalized and signed.

It is ready from the Sri Lankan side, but the Indian Shipping Ministry is still in the process of obtaining mandatory no-objection certificates from a few concerned ministries.

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