Taking the ties to a new level, India and Sri Lanka on Monday inked a civil nuclear pact besides deciding to expand defence and security cooperation.
This was announced after the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during which both the leaders expressed commitment to find a solution to the emotive fishermen issue by adopting a constructive and humanitarian approach.
“The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust. This is the first such agreement Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation, including in areas like agriculture and healthcare,” Modi said in a joint press interaction with Sirisena.
The nuclear pact would facilitate cooperation in the transfer and exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including use of radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety and nuclear security.
It would also facilitate cooperation in radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.
The Prime Minister said he and the Sri Lankan leader also agreed to expand the defence and security cooperation.
Modi said he believed that destinies of both the countries are “inter-linked” and that “our security and prosperity are indivisible”.
On the fishermen issue, Modi said he and the President attached the “highest importance” to it.
“It affects livelihoods on both sides. We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue”.
“We will encourage the fishermen’s associations on both sides to meet again soon. They should find a solution that can be taken forward by both governments,” he said.
The Sri Lankan President expressed happiness over the outcome of the talks and said the friendship between the two countries was not only important to each other but was significant for the region as well.
“I really appreciate Prime Minister Modi’s efforts (to improve ties). Relations between the two countries will be strengthened further,” he said.
Modi said India was Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and friend and the goodwill and support of the people of India will always be with it.
“We also share a broad range of interests – economic development for our countries; peace and prosperity in South Asia; maritime security in the region,” he said.
On the economic engagement, Modi said both the countries are committed to “unlock” the vast potential of the economic cooperation.
“We are pleased to be Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner. I know that India enjoys a huge trade surplus. I expressed my support for a more balanced growth in trade in both directions,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he had conveyed to Sirisena India’s readiness to promote greater flow of Indian investments and tourists into Sri Lanka.
“We also intend to further improve air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka,” he said.
Modi said they discussed expansion of cooperation in energy sector, both conventional and renewable, and that Commerce Secretaries of both the countries will meet soon to review trade ties.
Talking about the Indian assisted projects for internally- displaced persons in Sri Lanka, Modi said they have made excellent progress.
“This includes the Housing Project, under which more than 27,000 houses have already been constructed. The President and I expressed satisfaction with the progress.
“I assured President Sirisena of India’s commitment to its development partnership with Sri Lanka. This will continue to cover a broad range of areas, including infrastructure,” he said.
Referring to a pact on cultural cooperation, Modi said that like cricket, culture provides a strong bond between the two countries.