Lanka offered $450m in aid to fight terror, boost economy - GulfToday

Lanka offered $450m in aid to fight terror, boost economy

Modi

Ram Nath Kovind greets Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Narendra Modi looks on at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi on Friday. Reuters

India on Friday announced lines of credit amounting to $450 million to Sri Lanka as its newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on ways to push the bilateral relations and undertake developmental activities jointly in the island nation, including those benefiting ethnic Tamils.

Modi and Rajapaksa held detailed talks here on Friday, covering various aspects of bilateral relations and the reconciliation process underway in Sri Lanka, keeping in mind the interests of ethnic Tamils.

Welcoming Rajapaksa in India, Modi said, “I congratulate him on his victory in the polls. This is an honour that he chose India for his first trip abroad. This reflects deep friendship between us.” He stated that a stable and prosperous Sri Lanka is not only in the interest of India but also the Indian Ocean region.

“My government’s neighbourhood-first policy gives Sri Lanka the top priority. We have decided that multi-faceted cooperation between us will be strengthened,” Modi said.     For countering terrorism, Modi said, “India has always opposed terrorism and expects action from international community on cross-border terrorism.” About Tamil people living in Sri Lanka, Modi said, “I am hopeful that the process of integration of the Tamil ethnic community is taken forward.” India had earlier offered Sri Lanka $100 million credit line for solar energy.

Rajapaksa, who took over as the Sri Lankan President on Nov.18, has chosen India as the first country of his foreign visit, accepting an invitation extended by Modi soon after his election.

Modi had sent External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Colombo on Nov.19 to personally hand over the invitation.

“When I was elected, the first official invitation came from India. I am thankful. I would take this opportunity to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka,” Rajapaksa said.

Addressing the media jointly with Gotbaya Rajapaksa after their meeting at Hyderabad House, the prime minister underlined India’s neighbourhood-first policy and said the Sri Lankan President’s visit will boost the age-old ties between the two countries.

He assured Rajapaksa that India is with Sri Lanka in its fight against terrorism and announced a line of credit of $50 million to the island nation for the purpose.

Modi announced another line of credit of $400 million to help strengthen Sri Lanka’s economy.

He noted that India is already undertaking a project to build houses for ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka.

“Under Indian housing project, 46,000 houses have already been built in Sri Lanka and 14,000 more are being constructed for Tamil origin people,” Modi said.

“We exchanged our views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa told me about his inclusive political point of view on ethnic harmony. I hope and believe the Sri Lankan government will take forward procedure of reconciliation to fulfil ambitions of equality, justice, peace and respect for Tamil citizens of the country,” the prime minister said.

The process of reconciliation includes implementation of 13th Amendment, Modi added.

On the occasion, Rajapaksa said the Indian boats seized by Sri Lankan forces will be released.

“Happy to receive @GotabayaR on his first overseas visit as the President of Sri Lanka. His visit is a testimony to the time-tested ties between India and Sri Lanka and will help strengthen our bonds as well as energise our partnership,” Modi said in a tweet earlier.

“A new chapter in our 2,500-year-old intertwined history. PM @narendramodi welcomed President @GotabayaR ahead of their talks. President @GotabayaR is on his maiden visit to India in his capacity as President of Sri Lanka,” a Minitry of External Aaffairs spokesperson tweeted.

Rajapaksa was given a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan were President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi were present to receive him.

Before arriving on his first state visit abroad, the Sri Lankan President had tweeted: “Leaving for my first state visit to India and looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations with Shri @narendramodi and Govt of India.”

Indo-Asian News Service