NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday praised his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe for the political reforms and progress in the island nation and congratulated him for leading the United National Front for Good Governance alliance to victory in last month's parliamentary elections.
“Sri Lanka has voted twice this year for change, reforms, reconciliation and progress. There can be no stronger statement of Sri Lanka’s democratic tradition. There can be no clearer sign of Sri Lanka’s march towards a peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous future, Prime Minister Modi said here in the joint press briefing.
He thanked Wickremesinghe for choosing India as his first overseas destination after becoming Prime Minister and added that it was a happy coincidence that his last full term as a Lankam Prime Minister coincided with the first NDA Government.
“We thank you for your belief in and steadfast support for India-Sri Lanka relations. You are a deeply valued friend, whose vision for Sri Lanka’s progress and commitment to its pursuit is greatly admired in India,” Prime Minister Modi said.
Speaking on the recent political reforms in Sri Lanka, where Wickremesinghe was sworn in for the fourth time as PM, Prime Minister Modi said the nation’s leadership has shown remarkable political unity, at a time of great hope.
“We are pleased that the Government of Sri Lanka has taken a number of significant steps in recent times. I am confident that with the wisdom and will of the leadership in Sri Lanka and the support of the people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development, so that all Sri Lankans, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can live a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka,” Prime Minister Modi said.
Speaking on the discussions between the two leaders in the day, he said that the talks has been fruitful and had ended on excellent terms.
“We welcomed some significant developments in bilateral relations since March, including the currency swap arrangement. We also expressed hope that progress on key bilateral initiatives and projects will gather speed now,” Prime Minister Modi said.
He added that both nations want deeper economic engagement and would like to see their trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka.
The two leaders also discussed how they can achieve these goals in a more open and competitive Indian market, including through bilateral arrangements for trade and investments.
“I also sought his support for Indian investors, who are keen to participate in Sri Lanka’s economic development, especially in infrastructure, energy and transport sectors. I offered India’s full support to strengthen connectivity between our two countries to deepen human and economic links that will benefit all sections of our societies,” Prime Minister Modi said.
He also assured his Lankan counterpart of continuing commitment to their development partnership - in infrastructure, railways, energy, community development projects, agriculture, capacity building, science and technology, space and civil nuclear field.
“We recognise our closely aligned security interests and the need to remain sensitive to each other’s concerns. We both reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our defence and security cooperation,” Prime Minister Modi said.
Speaking on the issue on terrorism, he stated that both nations will intensify cooperation in combating terrorism and work together for security and stability in their maritime neighborhood.
He asserted that Sri Lanka is India’s largest partner in defence training programme and that both nations will continue to expand their cooperation in this area.
“This is a relationship that touches the hearts of ordinary Indians and Sri Lankans. It is also of great strategic importance to our two countries. With President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, we can look to the future with great optimism,” Prime Minister Modi said.