After holding bilateral talks with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday extended a $400 million line of credit to the country to help strengthen its infrastructure and economy. He also announced an additional $50 million to help the country combat terrorism.
Addressing the media along with Rajapaksa, Modi said the two countries share a “strong bond” and a strong Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India but that of the entire Indian Ocean region.
“The mandate given to you (Rajapaksa) is the expression of the ambitions of the people of Sri Lanka for a strong country. A strong Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India but that of the entire Indian Ocean region,” Modi said. “Sri Lanka and India share a strong bond. We give priority to our relations with Sri Lanka under our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.”
Modi said under the Indian housing project, 46,000 houses have been built in Sri Lanka and 14,000 houses are under construction for Tamil origin people. Another $100 million credit line has been given towards solar projects, he added.
“We exchanged our views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa told me of his inclusive political point of view on ethnic harmony. I believe Sri Lanka govt will take forward procedure of reconciliation to fulfil ambitions of equality, justice, peace and respect of Tamils,” Modi added during the briefing.
Rajapaksa, who is on a three-day visit to India, said he would strive to take his country’s bilateral relationship with India to a “very high level”. He said the two countries need to work together on issues relating to security and the overall welfare of the people.
“We held fruitful talks. Our focus of talks was on security cooperation,” he said, during the joint briefing. “During my tenure as president, I want to bring the relationship between India and Sri Lanka to a very high level. We have a long-standing relationship historically as well as politically.”
Rajapaksa also said he would take steps to release fishing boats belonging to India.
After being sworn in as President just 10 days ago, this is Rajapaksa’s first overseas tour. He arrived in India on Thursday.
Rajapaksa was given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this morning by where President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi received him.
Rajapaksa met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar early on Friday to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. The President also met National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval during which they discussed issues of national interest and bilateral cooperation were discussed.