Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has wrapped up the first day of his first official visit to India with a US$ 400 million development credit line, an Indian commitment to help boost Sri Lanka’s security intelligence capability and co-operation in the vexed problem of fisheries poaching in the Palk Strait.
The cordiality between the two national leaders, President Rajapaksa and Premier Narendra Modi was very visible during the joint news media briefing in New Delhi yesterday afternoon when they read out their statements.
In his first official state visit as President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who pledged to assist Sri Lanka in its efforts to combat terrorism by offering USD 50 million to enhance Sri Lanka’s national intelligence capabilities. Speaking first, as host, at their media briefing, the Indian Premier hailed a safe, secure and stable Sri Lanka as being integral to the Indian Ocean.
“We are fortunate and honoured that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has chosen to visit Sri Lanka on his first overseas official trip. It is indeed a unique opportunity for us to be able to welcome him only two weeks into his presidency.
This visit goes a long way in strengthing bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka,” Prime Minister Modi said in his opening statement following a meeting with President at Hyderabad House (official state guesthouse). “A safe, secure and stable Sri Lanka is integral in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is not only India’s closest neighbor but most trusted friend.
We are bound in many ways including our ethnicities, languages, our cultures.We have both collectively pledged to strengthen relations between both nations and assist each other in times of need.”
Prime Minister Modi announced a US$ 400 million line for credit to assist Sri Lanka with its infrastructure and economic developments. He also commended the Indian housing project in the North adding that to-date 46,000 houses have been built with many more in the offing.
He added that in order to complement the housing project, specific education, infrastructure, and community-oriented projects with a people centric approach would be soon implemented.
“India has always opposed all forms of terrorism. The Easter attack demonstrated the ruthlessness of terrorism and we will support Sri Lanka to secure its nation and fight terrorism in all its forms. I have spoken to the President at length on this and, to this end we will offer USD 50 million for combating terrorism,” he said. Referring to reconciliation efforts, PM Modi said he was hopeful that the 13th Amendment would further reconciliation.He praised President Gotabaya for his vision to ensure ethnic harmony and offered assistance in this regard.
In his very first official address overseas, President Rajapaksa extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to be the first head of state to visit Sri Lanka since the elections on November 16.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I discussed several issues this morning. The discussions were extremely cordial and reassuring. Among these, the security of our two countries took priority. India has always assisted Sri Lanka in enhancing our capabilities in intelligence and counter terrorism and we look forward to his support in this regard.
I want to thank him for his offering of US$ 50 million to enhance the capabilities of our intelligence agencies. Since our recent experience in April this year we have had to re-think our strategies,” the President said.
He said that Sri Lanka will continue to work closely with India “to ensure that the Indian ocean remains as a zone of peace.” “We also discussed how Sri Lankan and India could work together on important matters. As India emerges to become one of the growing economic powers in the world I discussed with the Prime Minister how Sri Lanka can benefit from certain economic sectors where India is strongly positioned.”
He thanked PM Modi for the positive responses to many of the initiatives he proposed during the first visit and assured the PM that Sri Lanka will release all boats belonging to India in Sri Lanka’s custody as the first step in resolving the longstanding fishing disputes.