NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday discussed a wide range of issues, including reconciliation of Tamils, defence ties and economic cooperation.
In his statement, Modi said Sri Lanka “has voted twice this year for change, reforms, reconciliation and progress”. He was referring to the surprise defeat of Rajapaksa by his former health minister Maithripala Sirisena in presidential polls in January, followed by the UNP-led coalition emerging as the largest bloc in parliamentary polls last month.
The Sri Lankan PM noted that he briefed the Indian leadership about the “developments in Geneva”. Hoping for reconciliation, he added, “We certainly look at the past, but also together look at the future.”
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On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for human rights will present the report of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka, which is likely to strongly indict both sides of the civil war on war crimes. However, US and other western countries will not bring a critical resolution in UNHRC, but rather support Colombo’s plan for setting up a credible domestic mechanism to address concerns.
Four agreements were exchanged during the meeting of the PMs — on orbit frequency coordination of satellite for the SAARC region, for supply of medical equipment to district hospital in Vavuniya, establishment of emergency ambulance services in Sri Lanka and renewal of MoU for grant assistance for implementation of SDP. Besides, India and Sri Lanka also agreed that fishermen’s associations on both sides should continue efforts to find a solution. Wickremesinghe felt that they mut be completed in a fixed time-frame.
Modi said both sides reaffirmed commitment to deepen defence and security cooperation. India had been unhappy with the previous Rajapaksa regime over its close China ties, especially after visit by Chinese submarines to Colombo.
PM also said combating terrorism and working together for security and stability in maritime neighbourhood was high on the agenda. “Sri Lanka is our largest partner in defence training programme and we will continue to expand our cooperation in this area,” he said. Agreeing, Wickremsinghe said ‘peace and stability in the region’ was the key to success and stability.