ANDHRA PRADESH

Economic partnership: Sri Lanka hopeful of pact with India

HYDERABAD, MARCH 24. The Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Sumith Nakandala, on Thursday expressed hope that a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) would be reached with India within six months.

He was speaking at the 3rd India - ASEAN International Seminar on "India and South East Asia: Cultural Diplomacy", conducted by the Society for Indian Ocean Studies (SIOS), Indo-American Centre for International Studies (IACIS) and Centre for Security Dialogue and sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

Largest trading partner

Mr. Sumith Nakandala said while CEPA was proposed in 2004, the first preparatory meeting held last month had gone off very well. "Given such a positive note we are sure we will able to conclude it in about six months," he said, adding that on all counts India was the largest trading partner for Sri Lanka. Trade links being the most important between nations, they needed to be revived and increased, he said.

Tsunami relief

He recalled that after the devastation caused by the recent tsunami, it was India that had reached out first and faster than any other nation. Such interaction, he said was welcome. He said the Chennai office of the Observer Group, the Centre for Security Dialogue and Indian Ocean Research Group (IORG) were doing good work in fostering relationships between the ASEAN nations.

Others who spoke included Satish Chandra, secretary, SIOS and a former Indian Foreign Service Officer and chairman, Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. The seminar director, P.V.Rao, welcomed the gathering, while the director, IACIS, Issaq Sequeira chaired the inaugural session.

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