India, Sri Lanka consider energy cooperation

NEW DELHI, 09/06/2010: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the signing of agreements between the two countries after the delegation level taks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, on 09 June, 2010. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

NEW DELHI, 09/06/2010: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the signing of agreements between the two countries after the delegation level taks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, on 09 June, 2010. Photo: V.V. Krishnan   | Photo Credit: V_V_Krishnan

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has proposed discussions on establishing a joint information mechanism on the possibility of oil and gas fields straddling the India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary.

In a joint declaration, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Mr. Rajapaksa that this proposal would receive his government's attention and the matter could be discussed further between the two sides.

The two countries also agreed to promote dialogue on security and defence issues and step up high-level military exchanges and training of military personnel. Newly recruited Sri Lankan police personnel would be given additional training in Indian institutions.

They agreed to institute an annual defence dialogue between the two governments. The two countries would promote the use of space technology for a variety of societal services. India offered to extend bandwidth to set up satellite-interactive terminals in Sri Lanka.

An agreement on conducting a feasibility study for the interconnection of the Indian and Sri Lankan electricity grids was also signed. The two leaders were confident that the agreement would make a significant contribution to enhancing bilateral cooperation in the energy sector.

In a step towards strengthening the security and legal framework of their bilateral relationship, Dr. Singh and Mr. Rajapaksa witnessed the signing of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters and Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners.

Both leaders agreed to revive the Joint Commission mechanism and hold its next meeting in the second half of 2010 in order to devise a fuller agenda of bilateral cooperation in various fields.

The two leaders were briefed on the progress in discussions between the National Thermal Power Corporation of India and the Ceylon Electricity Board of Sri Lanka on a joint venture to build a 500-MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur in Trincomalee, incorporating environmentally friendly technologies.

Sri Lanka expressed its appreciation for an additional concessionary line of credit of $200 million.

Mr. Rajapaksa appreciated the credit facilities of about $800 million for railway projects in Sri Lanka. The procurement of rolling stock from India would take place in a phased manner. In view of past experience, a Steering Committee would oversee the timely completion of the contracted work.

In the area of restoring physical and cultural infrastructure and promoting normality in northern Sri Lanka, India agreed to assist in the rehabilitation of Palaly Airport and Kankesanthurai Harbour as also help in renovating the Duraiappah Stadium and constructing a Cultural Centre in Jaffna.

India and Sri Lanka agreed to resume the ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and between Talaimannar and Rameswaram.

The two leaders noted the involvement of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in addressing the issue of rehabilitation of war widows and witnessed the signing of the MoU on Setting Up of Women's Trade Facilitation Centre and Community Learning Centre at Batticaloa. They also witnessed the signing of the MoU on Small Development Project Scheme.

In the area of bilateral trade, it was agreed that a more comprehensive framework of economic cooperation was required. Officials would hold intensive consultations to develop a framework for sustainable economic partnership and addressing outstanding issues.

A CEOs Forum would involve the public and private sectors in a dialogue to generate ideas to deepen and broaden the bilateral economic relationship and help chart the future course of business and trade interaction between the two countries. The two leaders agreed on establishing the Consulates General of India in Jaffna and in Hambantota to reinforce consular cooperation and friendly links between the two countries. India welcomed Sri Lanka's interest in establishing an extra post in India, in addition to those in Chennai and Mumbai.

They expressed satisfaction with the Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of October 2008 and agreed to explore ways to strengthen the safety and security of fishermen and, in this context, directed their officials to revive the meetings of the bilateral Joint Working Group on Fishing. It was also decided to enhance and promote contacts between the fishermen's associations on both sides.

Both leaders also welcomed the proposal for the restoration of Tiruketheeswaram temple at Mannar and witnessed the signature of the Programme for Cultural Cooperation for the period 2010-2013.

It was agreed to step up links in the educational sector with the two leaders announcing the launching of an “India-Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative.” Under this Initiative, the University of Colombo would establish a Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies with the support of the Government of India.

India announced an expansion of its scholarship programmes in Sri Lanka, including addressing special needs of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka and upcountry areas. India also responded positively to the request to extend technical assistance to the 10-year Presidential Initiative to steer the island country towards a Trilingual Society by 2020.

Both sides agreed to collaborate in the establishment of a research institute on agriculture in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Welcoming the growing connectivity between the two countries, the two leaders called for greater cooperation in tourism and promotion of people-to-people contacts, especially between the youth of India and Sri Lanka.

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