Sri Lanka to open fourth consular office in India

Sri Lanka and India on Friday exchanged notes to establish Indian Consulate-General offices in Jaffna and Hambantota.

Sri Lanka is to add a fourth Consulate-General office in an Indian city. It already has the High Commission in New Delhi, the Deputy High Commissioner's office in Chennai and a Consulate in Mumbai.

The proposed office in Jaffna will cover the five districts of the war-ravaged northern province — Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mullaithivu, Vavuniya and Mannar. Pending the formal opening, India has already established a visa office in Jaffna town.

The consulate office in Hambantota, where the Chinese are developing a strategically important harbour, will cover the districts of Galle, Matara, Hambantota and Moneragala. Hambantota is the home constituency of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The formal notes on the new consulates were signed by External Affairs Ministry Secretary C.R. Jayasinghe on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, and Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha.

It has been agreed that any expansion of the consular districts of the proposed Consulates-General could be considered subsequently through mutual consent.

The government of India has welcomed Sri Lanka's interest in establishing a further post in India.

According to an official statement here, Mr. Jayasinghe said the opening of the two Indian Consulate offices would further strengthen the close and cordial relations between Sri Lanka and India, and people-to-people contact was important.

Mr. Kantha, appreciating the support extended by the island nation, said Sri Lanka was an important country with which India continued to have historical contacts.

Mr. Kantha said the opening of the two new Consulates in Sri Lanka would further expand ties, and he looked forward to working closely with Sri Lankan authorities.

Railway work

Separately, a ceremony was held on Thursday to mark the inauguration of upgrading of coastal rail line in on the Galle-Matara sector. The function, held at Weligama, was attended by Mr. Kantha and Kumara Welgama, Minister for Transport. India is assisting in the rehabilitation of the Colombo-Matara rail link through a line of credit of $167.4 million. Work on Phase 1 of the project in the Galle-Matara Section (42 km) is likely to be completed by December.

Work on Phase II in the Galle-Colombo section has also started.

A statement by the Indian mission here said Mr. Kantha, speaking on the occasion, reiterated India's deep commitment to contribute to the reconstruction and upgrading of Sri Lanka's rail infrastructure, an Indian mission statement here said. The High Commissioner also underlined India's commitment to infrastructure development in the north and said the government of India had already announced a line of credit of $ 800 million for reconstruction of rail infrastructure there. The commercial agreements for construction of the Northern Railway Line between Omanthai-Pallai, Madhu-Talaimannar and Medawachchiya-Madhu Road sections had been concluded. Work on the Northern Railway Line is expected to start in October.