Basil to visit India to discuss Rs. 142 bn aid package

By S Venkat Narayan
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, June 26: India has emerged as Sri Lanka’s biggest helper by committing assistance worth a staggering US$1,250 million, or Rs 127.8 billion, to rebuild the country’s civil war-ravaged Northern and Eastern Provinces since the so-called Eelam War IV ended 13 months ago.

Much of the assistance and the projects on which it is to be spent were finalized during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s talks with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and other senior Indian leaders during his landmark official visit here on June 9. It comprises project grants and soft loan packages.

Work on implementing these ambitious projects has already begun in earnest. An Indian team of officials, led by Suresh Reddy, a joint secretary in the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka-Maldives (BSM) division in the Ministry of External Affairs, has just concluded a visit to the island for preliminary talks with officials on the implementation of the projects identified during the President’s visit here. The team visited Colombo and Jaffna.

The Sunday Island understands that Basil Rajapaksa, the Minister for Economic Development who is in charge of all the reconstruction and rehabilitation works in the North and East, will visit New Delhi soon for discussions with Indian leaders and officials to expedite work on India-aided projects in the North-East.

The bulk of the assistance, amounting to US$800 million or Rs 90.88 billion in credit, is for reconstruction of the railway infrastructure in the Jaffna peninsula, consisting of constructing the Talaimannar-Medawachchiya track, the Omanthai-Pallai track, and the construction of a signaling and telecommunication network in northern segments as well as support for the Pallai-Kankesenthurai segment. Work on these projects will commence in October this year.

India has allocated a US$200-million or Rs 22.72-billion credit line to enable the Sri Lanka to construct a jetty at Sampur and transmission lines from Sampur to Habarana. The two sides will complete within three months all relevant

agreements relating to the construction of a 500 MW Coal Power Plant at Sampur using environment-friendly technologies as a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

In addition to this one-billion-dollar or Rs 113-billion credit, India is providing grants worth US$250 million or LKRs 28.4 billion as humanitarian assistance for the Internally Dispalced Persons (IDPs) in the Northern Province. This includes US$212 million or LKRs 240 billion for constructing 50,000 houses for the IDPs.

The following are among the major schemes and projects India will help Sri Lanka implement in the coming months and years:

1. Construction of 50,000 houses for the IDPs in the North;

2. Reconstruction of the Madu-Talaimannar railway line;

3. Construction of the Pallai-Kankesenthurai railway line;

4. Rehabilitation of the Palaly airport and the Kanksenthurai harbour;

5. Restoration of the Duraiappah Stadium and construction of a cultural centre in Jaffna;

6. Setting Up of a Women’s Trade Facilitation Centre and a Community Learning Centre at Batticaloa to help women widowed or otherwise adversely affected by the civil war;

7. Establishing a joint venture between the National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board of Sri Lanka (CEB) for building a 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur (Trincomalee);

8. A concessionary grant of US$200 to Sri Lanka to enable the island's government to construct a jetty at Sampur and  transmission lines from Sampur to Habarana.

9. Resumption of the ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and between Talaimannar and Rameswaram;

10. Establishing a joint information mechanism to explore the possibility of oil and gas fields straddling the India Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary;

11. India and Sri Lanka will jointly commemorate the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi). The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) will support the holding of an International Buddhist Conference in Kandy later this year.

12. The restoration of Tiruketheeswaram temple at Mannar with help from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram with the involvement of Sri Lanka's Department of Archaeology;

13. Under the "India-Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative" announced by the two leaders, India will fund the setting up of a Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies at the University of Colombo; and linkages between Indian and Sri Lankan universities and institutions of higher learning are to be promoted;

14. India to help Sri Lanka become a Trilingual Society by 2010;

15. The two countries will collaborate to establish a research institute on agriculture in the Northern Province;

16. India will extend bandwidth of its satellites to set up satellite-interactive terminals in Sri Lanka to promote the use of space technology;

17.  A distance learning network linking the English and Foreign Language University, Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), and the Sri Lanka-India Centre for English Language Training (SLICELT) will be set up to enable training of master trainers and teachers in Sri Lanka and upgrading their skills. India to help SLICELT expand further by establishing provincial and regional centres;

18. Enhance high-level military exchanges and training of military personnel as well as impart additional training in Indian institutions for the newly recruited police personnel in Sri Lanka.



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