Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is on a three-day visit to India, met PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning. Both leaders held extensive talks on a host of issues including the sticky fishermen issue.
Both sides also discussed the sensitive issue of ensuring justice to Tamils, ways to deepen trade and defence engagements and intensify cooperation in combating terror.
After the delegation level and restricted format talks, both countries said that they were determined to take the relationship to the next level. The two sides signed 4 agreements to deepen cooperation in health care and space science.
Both leaders held a press conference in the capital post their meet.
PM Modi thanked Wickremesinghe for choosing India on his first overseas trip after becoming PM for a record 4th term. Modi said that he hoped that the country will achieve “genuine reconciliation” and development so that all people including the Tamil community can live a “life of equality, justice, peace and dignity” in a united Sri Lanka.
On the fishermen issue, the Prime Minister said that it was decided that fishermen’s associations on both sides should continue their efforts to find a solution.
“I conveyed to him that this should be seen as a humanitarian issue that affects livelihoods. I informed him of the steps we are taking to encourage Indian fishermen to take up deep sea fishing,” PM Modi said in the press meet.
“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,” Modi said while stressing on the need to strengthen cooperation against terror.
Lanka is India’s largest partner in defence training programme and it will continue to expand cooperation in the area, said PM Modi.
The issue of comprehensive economic partnership agreement between the two countries figured in the talks and the Sri Lankan Prime Minister hoped that it will be finalised by next year.
According to PM Modi, both India and Sri Lanka have a “huge stake” in each other’s success. He assured Wickremesinghe of India’s continuing commitment to its development partnership – in infrastructure, railways, energy, community development projects, agriculture, capacity building, science and technology, space and civil nuclear field.
Seeking deeper economic engagement, Modi sought support for Indian investors who are keen to participate in Sri Lanka’s economic development, especially in infrastructure, energy and transport sectors.
“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,” said PM Modi.
India is keen to see the bilateral trade grow as Lanka is India’s major trading partner in South Asia. The bilateral trade between the two countries in 2013-14 was USD 5.23 billion with Indian exports amounting to USD 3.98 billion.
Before meeting Modi, Wickremesinghe also met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
(With inputs from PTI)