September 27, 2020 1:57:24 am
In accordance with the neighbourhood first policy and SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India will give a “special and high priority” to its relationship with Sri Lanka.
Modi made the remarks during his first virtual bilateral summit with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, during which both sides, with an eye on China’s proactive moves in the Indian Ocean region, agreed to continue and further strengthen their mutual cooperation on personnel exchange and training and maritime security.
After the two leaders’ meeting, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs said that the “ongoing infrastructure and connectivity projects were discussed and Prime Minister Modi expressed his confidence that the government in Sri Lanka will take early and decisive steps for their early implementation…”.
Eye on China, India engages Rajapaksas
After Mahinda Rajapaksa’s win in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary polls, the Rajapaksa brothers—with Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the helm as President—have once again regained influence and authority in the island nation. Now, New Delhi has moved fast to engage with the brothers. Saturday’s summit is a continuation of India’s engagement with Sri Lanka, a critical neighbour which has also been wooed by Beijing.
The two leaders are learnt to have discussed the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China as the troops from both sides have been in a stand-off for more than four months, sources said.
At the meeting, Modi said, “We are giving special and high priority to our relationship with Sri Lanka in accordance with my government’s neighbourhood first policy and SAGAR doctrine.”
Both leaders also acknowledged the progress made in information sharing and cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts as well as in dealing with regional drug trafficking.
Both sides discussed working to strengthen bilateral financial cooperation. India has already provided a $400 million currency swap facility to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in order to assist with economic recovery and to tackle Covid-19 related disruptions.
“An additional request for a bilateral currency swap arrangement worth around $1 billion by the Sri Lankan side remains under discussion. Technical discussions on Sri Lanka’s request for debt deferment are going on,” MEA Joint Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) Amit Narang said after the talks.
Narang said both leaders also exchanged views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. “Prime Minister Modi called on the new government in Sri Lanka to work towards realising the expectations of Tamils for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka by achieving reconciliation nurtured by implementation of the Constitutional provisions. He emphasized that implementation of the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution is essential for carrying forward the process of peace and reconciliation,” Narang said.
The two leaders exchanged views on fishermen-related issues. “They agreed to continue and strengthen the ongoing constructive and humanitarian approach to address this issue through existing bilateral mechanisms and instructed relevant officials on both sides to this effect,” Narang said.
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