Sri Lankans increasingly recognise India as a true, reliable friend, says GL Peiris

Economic assistance, development partnership and fisheries conflict figure in bilateral talks in New Delhi

Updated - March 16, 2022 06:55 pm IST

Published - February 08, 2022 10:30 pm IST - COLOMBO

Harsh V. Shringla, left, and G. L. Peiris in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Harsh V. Shringla, left, and G. L. Peiris in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The people of Sri Lanka “increasingly recognise that India is a true friend that Sri Lanka can rely on at all times, Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris has said, thanking India for the $ 2.4 billion assistance at a “critical juncture” for the island nation in the midst of an economic crisis.

Mr. Peiris on Tuesday concluded his two-day visit to New Delhi, where he met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. His visit coincides with India releasing urgent financial assistance to Sri Lanka since the beginning of this year, including a $400 million currency swap, a $500 million loan deferment, a Line of Credit for $500 million for fuel imports and another $ 1 billion currently under negotiation.

Particular attention was drawn to the energy security of Sri Lanka, a statement issued by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, referring to the recently signed Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm agreement, that Mr. Peiris said, signalled “a closer integration between the two countries, resulting in substantial benefits; a win-win situation for both”.

Also read | India’s support helped Sri Lanka, gave ties new energy, says Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Peiris

In a separate statement, the Ministry of External Affairs, said Mr. Jaishankar called for “expeditiously taking forward mutually beneficial projects”, including proposals to enhance air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka, economic and investment initiatives, besides discussing steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security, keeping the neighbours’ “shared maritime domain safe from various contemporary threats”, and cooperation in combating COVID-19 pandemic. “EAM conveyed that India would always stand with Sri Lanka during its times of need,” the statement said.

The Foreign Ministers discussed the Palk Bay fisheries conflict and reiterated the longstanding consensus to handle fishermen issue through “humanitarian approach and refrain from the use of violence”. They agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early, starting with the Joint Working Group on Fisheries, the MEA statement said. The statement from the Sri Lankan side said Mr. Peiris, in his meetings, termed it a “flashpoint” and “a recurring issue” assuming a “different complexion”, alluding to recent clashes between fishermen of both countries.

Further, the Ministers agreed on the “early finalisation” of several agreements and MoUs in the areas of defence, culture and education, that are pending between the two countries, to maintain “the momentum” of the relationship, Sri Lanka’s MFA’s said.

While most points covered in the bilateral discussions during Mr. Peiris’s visit found mention in the official statements issued by both sides, one aspect – the pending concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils – made it only to the statement issued by New Delhi.

The MEA said: “Recalling the positive impact of India’s developmental and rehabilitation support, EAM [Jaishankar] emphasised that Sri Lanka’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. Devolution of power is an important aspect of this process”. The statement from Sri Lanka’s MFA made no mention of the Tamils, their rights, or the long-pending political solution.

Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka have agreed to mark 75 year of independence and establishment of diplomatic relations “in a suitable way” this year.

Tamil’s concerns ignored

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