India and Sri Lanka agreed to cooperate on counter-terrorism during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa here on Friday. As part of this common strategy, India announced a special Line of Credit of $50 million for strengthening Sri Lanka’s abilities to counter terror threats.
This was in addition to the $400 million Line of Credit that India announced for infrastructure development in the island nation.
“On the occasion of Easter this year, terrorists in Sri Lanka launched brutal attacks on the diversity of mankind and the valuable heritage of symbiosis. I went to Sri Lanka immediately after the elections in India to express India’s unwavering support in the Sri Lankan fight against terrorist and extremist forces. Sri Lankan police officers in major Indian institutions are already receiving the benefit of counter terrorist training,” said Prime Minister Modi.
The April 21 Easter bombings, blamed on IS-inspired Sri Lankans, left at least 259 dead and hundreds of others injured.
Mr. Rajapaksa thanked India for inviting him soon after being elected to the office of the President in the latest election.
“PM Modi and I discussed several important issues this morning. Among these, security of our two countries took priority. India has always assisted Sri Lanka to enhance our capabilities in intelligence and counter terrorism and we look forward to continued support (from India) in this regard,” he said.
In 2009 Sri Lanka waged a controversial war against the Tamil rebels in the east and the north of the country that ended decades of ethnic insurgency.
Following the Easter bombings Sri Lanka had to ‘rethink’ its national security strategy, said the visiting dignitary urging for both sides to continue cooperation, saying, “The Prime Minister’s assurances are most encouraging.” He also said that both sides want to maintain the Indian Ocean region as a “zone of peace.” The Sri Lankan leader addressed the issue of the fishing community and said that Colombo will take steps to release the boats of Indian fishermen that are in Sri Lankan custody.
Following the discussions between the two leaders, Mr. Rajapaksa said in a social media post “mutual respect and shared values” will strengthen bilateral ties between Colombo and New Delhi.
Mr. Modi pointed out that India has been building housing units in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka to assist the people who were displaced during the war of 2009. “We are delighted that under the Indian Housing Project, 46,000 houses have been constructed for the internally displaced in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. There is good progress in the construction of 14,000 houses for Tamils of Indian origin in the Up-Country region,” said the Indian leader.
Mr. Rajapaksa extended an invite to Mr. Modi to visit Sri Lanka as the first foreign head of government to be hosted by the new presidency.
Earlier, he was given a ceremonial welcome at the Forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and paid floral tributes at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit to India is being viewed as a significant step for the new leader especially since the Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar took up the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils when he met him on November 19.
Breaking a long silence on the issue, India had conveyed that Sri Lanka should address the Tamil national question and provide the Tamils with “peace, dignity and justice.”