NEW DELHI: On his first visit here after becoming Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe today pitched for "very close" ties with India with focus on enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, investment and maritime security in Indian Ocean.
Wickremesinghe, who held detailed talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day, also emphasised the need for enhancing cooperation in maritime security in the Indian Ocean.
"We must have a good and very close cooperation with India," he said while addressing a function here organised by a think-tank India Foundation.
Wickremesinghe, who was elected recently, said he had briefed Modi about the new developments in Sri Lanka politically and otherwise and on how the two countries can work together.
"We have agreed on many other issues including the sphere of economy with an emphasis on trade, investment and in the sphere of technology... (and discussed) some outstanding matters which have to be resolved," he said.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister said the two leaders also looked at the maritime security of the Indian Ocean and how the two countries can work together in this aspect.
Vital Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOC), that link the world trade, pass through maritime waters of the two Indian Ocean countries.
Wickremesinghe said he has proposed to Modi to have an interaction with the members of the Parliament of both the countries.
"One of the proposals we have made to the Prime Minister that there should be a meeting with the delegation of political party leaders from both sides...from Sri Lankan Parliament and the Lok Sabha and Rajya sabha. If we can meet annually for a few days then we can know how Parliament functions," he said.
At the event, he was felicitated by Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha.
Wickremesinghe said the bigger challenge lies in writing the Constitution of the country in a year.
"One of our main tasks is Constitution making. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) signed an agreement that we want a Constitution in two-years' time. I said, 'Are you joking? We want it in one year's time. We may not see eye-to-eye by the time the second year comes'."
He said now discussions are on whether to constitute a Constituent Assembly and send the final draft to Parliament.
"And Parliament can then pass the draft with two-third majority and send it down to referendum as power ultimately lies with the people. I think in the next few weeks we will have a final view-point," the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said.
He added that formation of the new government and subsequent reforms was the "last chance" failing which people may loose faith in democracy.
The new dispensation is looking at bringing more transparency in governance and devolution of power.
Wickremesinghe said the new government also has a Minister for National Dialogue to engage the civil society.
"Politics must change. Aspirations of the new generation are quite different. Now, they have given us a chance. If we don't work, will they be trusting politics? These are the challenges. Myself and President Maithripala (Sirisena) are confident of meeting those challenges.
Prabhu, who also had a meeting with Wickremesinghe, said, "we are trying to link India with Sri Lanka through the ailways."
Lauding the human index growth of Sri Lanka, Prabhu said India and Sri Lanka can work together in promoting tourism in the region.
Naidu said both the countries have "historical" and "civilisational" links and India wants to maintain a friendly relation with its South Asian neighbour.
"We want Sri Lanka to prosper and we want Sri Lanka to work along with India. Whatever issues are there, they have to be resolved with discussion at various levels and move forward. Whatever are the issues, whether it is Tamil issue, devolution of power, all these things we can forward provided there is a proper understanding.
"The present government is very friendly with India and our Prime Minister wants to maintain friendly relations with all the countries particularly India," Naidu said.