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Rajapaksa keeps focus on terror, Modi says discussed Tamil issue ‘with an open mind’

Rajapaksa kept the focus on security and counter-terrorism issues in his remarks, while steering clear of the matter of reconciliation with Lankan Tamils, like Gotabaya did during his visit.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published: February 9, 2020 4:10:33 am
India and Sri Lanka are neigbours as well as close friends: PM Modi after talks with Mahinda Rajapaksa Mahinda Rajapaksa, elder brother of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, arrived India on a five-day visit on Friday, his first overseas tour after being appointed as prime minister of the island nation in November last year. (Express photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

More than two months after India announced USD 50 million Line of Credit to Sri Lanka for security and counter-terrorism during President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit to India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday underlined their common concerns regarding terrorism and the need to fight the problem “firmly”.

Rajapaksa kept the focus on security and counter-terrorism issues in his remarks, while steering clear of the matter of reconciliation with Lankan Tamils, like Gotabaya did during his visit. President of Lanka from 2005 to 2015, Rajapaksa headed the country when the decades-long conflict with the LTTE was crushed.

But, in his remarks, Modi said they had talked “with an open mind” on the issue. “I am confident that the government of Sri Lanka will fulfill the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect within a United Sri Lanka,” he said.

Read | During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s India visit, New Delhi likely to raise Sri Lankan Hindu Tamil’s issues

The five-day visit to India is Rajapaksa’s first bilateral visit overseas. Gotabaya too had chosen to come to India for his first visit after being elected president.

Modi described terrorism as a major threat facing the region and asserted that Delhi and Colombo would expand cooperation on the challenge. “Both our countries have fought this problem firmly. There were painful and barbaric terrorist attacks on Easter Day in Sri Lanka in April last year. These attacks were not only a blow to Sri Lanka, but also to humanity. In our talks, we discussed furthering our anti-terror cooperation,” the PM said.

Rajapaksa expressed gratitude for India helping Colombo “enhance capabilities” to counter terrorism. He recalled Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka and assistance to counter terrorism, thanking him for his government’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’. “India is our closest neighbour and long-standing friend. The close historical links have provided a solid foundation to our ties,” he said.

During Gotabaya’s visit in November too, Modi had talked about the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, expressing similar hope for justice, peace and respect in his statement.

On the fishermen issue, Modi said both sides had decided to adopt a humanitarian approach. “The issue directly affects the livelihood of people of both countries,” he noted.

Modi said he and Rajapaksa also talked about joint economic projects as well as enhancement of trade and investment. “We discussed ways to deepen people-to-people contact, promote tourism and improve connectivity.”

Noting that India has been a “trusted partner” in Sri Lanka’s development, Modi said stability, security and prosperity in the island nation was important for India as well as for the entire Indian Ocean region. The Sri Lankan PM also met President Ram Nath Kovind and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He will travel next to Varanasi, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya and Tirupati.

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