India, Sri Lanka to expedite projects

Wickremesinghe meets Kovind, Modi, Sushma; discusses joint ventures, bilateral issues

Published - November 24, 2017 10:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma with Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma with Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Expediting decisions on joint projects and “solving the problems that have emerged” was at the top of the agenda as Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and President Ram Nath Kovind during his two-day visit to Delhi, officials on both sides highlighted here.

Among the projects discussed in particular were the plans for India to develop the Trincomalee harbour, including the Oil Tank farms project, as well as the Indian bid to lease and manage the Mattala airport in Hambantota.

“Our focus was on implementation of all the decisions taken so far,” Sri Lankan High Commissioner Chithranganie Wagishwara told The Hindu at the end of Mr. Wickremesinghe’s visit on Friday.

“Both Prime Ministers and the delegations spent much of their discussions on reviewing what has been done, what needs to be done and what needs to be speeded up,” she added.

In a similar statement, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday that Mr. Modi and Mr. Wickremesinghe had discussed the partnership. “I can only share with you that all bilateral issues were discussed. India is an important partner of Sri Lanka. We have a lot of development projects which are going on in Sri Lanka,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told presspersons.

The emphasis on speeding up joint ventures comes after months where there has been no movement on many of the pending decisions on joint ventures. Officials were hopeful that the Trinco Oil Farm project, that involves the Indian Oil Corporation taking over more than 70 storage tanks would have been sealed in April, when Mr. Wickremesinghe previously visited, but a flash strike by oil company employees put off any announcement.

In a statement issued in Sinhala on Thursday, the Sri Lankan government said that Mr. Wickremesinghe “is always prepared to take all efforts to accelerate all the Sri Lankan-Indian joint venture projects” and “expressed his confidence on the possibility of solving the problems that have emerged at present,” along with President Sirisena. However, the statement did not comment on the nature of the problems.

(With inputs from Meera Srinivasan in Colombo)

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