COLOMBO:Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Friday, that India stands ready to help Sri Lanka turn Trincomalee into a regional petroleum hub.
Speaking at the talks he held with the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Modi revealed that on Friday, the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation agreed to jointly develop the Upper Tank Farm at China Bay in Trincomalee on mutually acceptable terms.
Lanka IOC already utilizes 14 tanks in the Lower Tank Farm. Now, it will move into the Upper Tank Farm.
These tank farms have 99 giant oil tanks built by the British in 1944, but had been lying unused since the end of World War II till the Ranil Wickremesinghe government agreed to give them to India in the early 2000s.
On the long delayed joint venture to set up a 500 MW coal fired power plant at Sampur in Eastern Lanka, Modi said that he was looking forward to an “early commencement of work on the ground” as the “landmark” project will meet Lanka’s power needs.
Pushing his development agenda further, Modi announced that India will provide USD 318 million to help Lanka buy new rolling stock and also to repair and renovate rail lines.
In addition to the US$ 400 million given earlier to Lanka through a currency swap agreement to stabilize its currency in difficult times, India will now give US$ 1.5 billion.
In view of the strategic and economic importance of the Indian Ocean, the Indian PM announced that India and Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Task Force on Ocean Economy. He described it as a “significant step”.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told the media later that the issue of strategic cooperation was also discussed as it was in Mauritius and Seychelles.
Modi mentioned the issue of devolution power to the Tamils as a way to bring about ethnic reconciliation. He called for an “early and full implementation” of the 13th Amendment and urged the Lankan government to “go beyond it”.
Stressing the need for encouraging people to people contacts, Modi announced the decision to give Visa on Arrival to Lankans through Electronic Travel Authorization.
The Indian Prime Minister also announced cooperation to establish a Ramayana Trail in Lanka and a Buddhist Circuit in India.
On the all important fishing issue, he said: “This complex issue involves livelihood and humanitarian concerns on both sides. We should handle it from this perspective. At the same time we need to find a long term solution to this issue.”
“It is also important that fishermen’s associations of India and Sri Lanka meet at the earliest to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It can then be taken forward by both governments.”
Foreign Secretary Jaishankar said the issue of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was discussed but no conclusions were arrived at.