Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his much anticipated visit to Sri Lanka on Friday with a grand ceremonial welcome, though only a modest set of agreements were signed after his talks with Mr. Sirisena. Unlike his previous stops in the Seychelles and Mauritius, where Indian Ocean security cooperation and big-ticket development commitments were made, in Colombo four MoUs -- on visa exemptions for official passport holders, customs cooperation, youth exchanges and education, and the construction of a university auditorium -- were announced.
Mr. Modi also announced e-visa on arrival services for Sri Lankans, a $ 318 million Line of Credit to upgrade Sri Lanka’s railways, and a promise to build Trincomalee as a “petroleum hub”, while seeking movement on the 500 MW Sampur power project, that has been delayed for years due to environmental concerns.
Referring to the contentious issue of fishing rights that has led to tensions between the two countries, Mr. Modi said it must be handled as a “humanitarian concern”. “It is also important that fishermen's associations of India and Sri Lanka meet at the earliest to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It can then be taken forward by both governments,” Mr. Modi suggested.
Mr. Sirisena, who released 86 fishermen as a goodwill gesture a day ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit, did not refer to the issue, but said Mr. Modi’s visit to the North would be a “historic moment” for India-Sri lanka ties.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera defended Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe’s controversial comments on the “right to shoot” fishermen trespassing into Sri Lankan waters, the first reaction by the Sri Lankan government to the outrage in India’s Parliament over the comments. “PM Wickremsinghe merely reflected the frustration felt by many of the fishermen locally, nothing more,” Mr. Samaraweera told The Hindu.
Mr. Wickramasinghe, who hosted a lunch for Mr. Modi, was effusive in his praise of India’s policy in the region. “We are very happy to see Mr. Modi’s government has made its focus and priority in the subcontinent and Indian Ocean region,” he said in Parliament where Mr. Modi addressed a special session. Both the Prime Ministers invoked India and Sri Lanka’s “shared heritage” in their speeches.
Modi pays tributes to Indian soldiers
Later, at the IPKF memorial in Colombo, Mr. Modi paid his respects to nearly 1,500 Indian soldiers killed during their anti-LTTE operations in the late 1980s. In his comments in the ‘visitor's book’, the Prime Minister called the monument an “emotional manifestation of the bonds of friendship between India and Sri Lanka”.
|>A neighbour difficult to please||>Rajapaksa says RAW rallied opposition to his presidency||>PM to inaugurate a slew of development projects in Sri Lanka|
|Schedule for today|
|Meeting with President of Sri Lanka Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, delegation level talks, signing of Agreements and Press Statements|
|>Modi likely to raise China, devolution in his visit to Sri Lanka||-Brief meeting with Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Address to Parliament, Pay Homage to IPKF soldiers|
|>Modi commissions India-built Mauritian naval patrol ship||>Modi hails Mauritius for enriching Hindi literature||>Modi for forming a strong grouping around Indian Ocean|
|Did You Know|
|Indo-Mauritians form about 70% of the|
|>India and Mauritius announce security cooperation pact||Barracuda, an India-built naval patrol|
|>Modi's media statement||>Modi boosts security cooperation||>India deepening footprint in Indian Ocean|
|Did You Know|
|Modi is the first Prime Minister to visit.|
|>Modi hopes to counter China influence with SAARC tour||Assumption Island, which India leased|