External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday in Colombo and offered partnership in setting up a Special Economic Zone in Sri Lanka.
During their 50-minute long meeting, the Prime Minister sought Indian investment in Sri Lanka and proposed partnership in setting up an SEZ in Trincomalee, officials said.
“Their talks began with the discussion on the Indo-Lanka Joint Commission meeting and the Prime Minister said this is a very important forum for the two sides to advance in bilateral partnership in all areas,” official said.
Lankan PM also proposed to make the Joint Commission meeting an annual affair. The two leaders also talked about state university linkages.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka to co-chair the 9th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting in Colombo. She will hold crucial bilateral talks with top leaders of the Lankan government.
Swaraj arrived in Colombo on Friday afternoon and was received her Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera at the airport lounge. This is Swaraj’s second visit to Lanka within a year.
During her visit, Swaraj will co-chair the Indo–Sri Lanka 9th Joint Commission meeting to discuss key bilateral and regional issues with the Lankan authorities. Fishermen’s issue and rights of minority Tamils are two key issues that are likely to be discussed. Other bilateral issues concerning economic, trade, power, technical and maritime cooperation will also feature in the talks.
“This is an on going issue. Fishermen are straying into each other’s water and are arrested. We want a long term solution.” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Thursday.
“We want all the sections of Lankan population to live in peace and harmony. And I am sure this issue will also figure during the External Affairs Minister’s visit,” Swarup added.
Swaraj will call on President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and former president Chandrika Kumaratunga besides meeting other top leaders. She will also inaugurate the ‘Rise of Digital India’ exhibition on February 7.
Sri Lanka has recently started discussions on a new constitutional framework to accommodate all ethnic groups in the development process. A resolution has also been passed in Lankan Parliament to devolve power to Tamil minorities.
The Indo- Sri Lanka Joint Commission was set up in 1992 to address issues of bilateral cooperation. The last meeting of the Joint Commission was held in New Delhi in January 2013.
Indian fishermen straying into Lankan waters, and vice versa, has been a common bone of contention between the two countries. On several occasions, Lankan authorities have accused Indian fishermen of straying into its territorial waters, while India has always maintained that they are only fishing in their traditional areas, especially around Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Colombo in 1974.
Sushma Swaraj is also accompanied by Vikas Swarup on the tour.
“Leaving for Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister departs for the 9th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission Meeting in Colombo,” Swarup before leaving for Lanka.
( With inputs from PTI)