India hopes Sri Lanka will fulfil Tamils’ aspirations

Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, February 8:

India on Saturday hoped that the Sri Lankan government will realize the aspirations of the island-nation’s Tamil community by carrying forward the process of reconciliation within a united country.

The issue figured prominently in wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa here.

"I am confident that Sri Lankan government will realize expectations of Tamil people for equality, justice, peace within united Sri Lanka …I am confident the government will work towards reconciliation," Modi said with Rajapaksa standing by side as the two leaders addressed the media.

In their talks, the two Prime Ministers deliberated on the entire expanse of bilateral ties and resolved to further deepen anti-terror cooperation and boost trade and investment ties.

"Stability, security and prosperity in Sri Lanka is in India’s interest, but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean Region," Modi said.

He said India has been a "trusted partner" in Sri Lanka’s development and will continue to assist the country in its journey for peace and development.

Referring to the fishermen issue, Modi said both sides have decided to adopt a humanitarian approach in dealing with it. It is an issue that affects the livelihood of fishermen in both Sri Lanka and India, he added.

"We have decided to deepen cooperation to combat terrorism," Modi said. He disclosed that Sri Lankan officials dealing with the issue have started training in Indian defence establishments.

Modi said both India and Sri Lanka have faced the scourge of terrorism.

"Terrorism is a major threat in our region. Both our countries have fought this problem vigorously. In April last year, there were barbaric terrorist attacks on Easter Day in Sri Lanka. These were attacks on the entire humanity," he said.

Speaking after Modi, Rajapaksa thanked Modi for his "government’s neighbourhood-first policy and the priority he attaches to Sri Lanka." Part of their discussions centred around security of the two countries. "India has always helped us in countering terrorism. It is our closest neighbour, long-standing friend. Close historical links provided solid foundation to our ties." 

The visiting leader said he and Modi discussed how to utilise the $400-million credit India offered during President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit here last November. He said India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world. As a close neighbour, Sri Lanka wishes to benefit by taking Indian assistance to develop in several sectors.

 Rajapaksa thanked India for the assistance it rendered to Sri Lanka after the Easter serial blasts that rocked the island in April last year.

He said he has extended an invitation to Modi to visit Sri Lanka, and is looking forward to receiving him.

Rajapaksa arrived here on Friday on a four-day visit, his first overseas tour after being appointed as prime minister of the island nation in November last year. Former Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi called on Rajapaksa on Friday night. 

This morning, External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar called on him. He was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan this morning. Later, he visited Rajghat and laid a wreath on Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi.

Thereafter, Rajapaksa and Modi led their respective delegations at bilateral talks at Hyderabad House. Modi hosted a lunch in honour of Rajapaksa and his delegation.

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