Lanka takes steps to bond with India, restrain China

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Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris said that Sri Lanka will not allow any harm to come to Indian interests because of its economic and foreign exchange crisis, reports Asian Lite News

India and Sri Lanka plan to strengthen their economic and development relations in order to support the island nation during its economic crisis.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris on a three-day visit to India held talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on a range of bilateral issues. Taking to Twitter, Jaishankar said: “Productive talks with Sri Lankan FM G.L. Peiris. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Also focused on additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security”.

Peiris said that Sri Lanka will not allow any harm to come to Indian interests because of its economic and foreign exchange crisis. India has on many occasions shared its concern with Colombo about Chinese investments and activities in the island nations, the latest being Beijing’s overtures to Tamils in the northern parts of Sri Lanka.

Peiris, however, allayed Indian fears over China and said that Colombo has elevated relations between the two South Asian neighbours. As an example, he highlighted the Trincomalee oil tank deal and the deal with the Adani group over the development of the Western Container Terminal.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that India is according priority to Sri Lanka under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision and the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

Jaishankar also emphasised on enhancing air and sea connectivity between the two countries to reinforce tourism and people-to-people connect. He highlighted India’s support to Sri Lanka through economic and investment initiatives, promising to take additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security.

On the prickly issue over relations with the Tamils, Jaishankar reinforced that Sri Lanka’s interests are best served by ensuring equality, justice, peace and respect for the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka. He again emphasises on the devolution of power to address lingering issues with the community.

The two countries also decided to tackle the issue of fishermen by setting up the Joint Working Group on Fisheries and adopting a humanitarian approach while resolving India-Sri Lanka maritime boundary issues.

Peiris expressed gratitude for India’s assistance and highlighted the steps taken by his country on human rights issues and reconciliation with communities. Jaishankar and Peiris also decided to extend cooperation in regional platforms like BIMSTEC and the Colombo Security Conclave.

Peiris also met with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during his visit.

The two countries have exchanged high-profile visits over the last few months in a bid to cement economic, military and developmental ties.

‘”We will mark 75 years of our independence and diplomatic relations in a suitable way. Productive talks with Sri Lankan FM G.L. Peiris. Exchanged views on the fishermen issue and agreed that bilateral mechanisms should meet early,” Jaishankar said after the talks.

The fishermen issue is a long-pending matter between the two countries and the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have raised this several times with the Centre. MPs from these two states have also raised this issue in the Parliament and asked the government to talk with Sri Lanka on this matter.

There have been recent incidents of attacks on Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. Indian fishermen are arrested from time to time by the Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and fishing in Sri Lankan waters. As per the available information, 74 and 159 Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

With sustained diplomatic efforts, India has secured their release. At present, 21 Indian fishermen, arrested along with 2 boats on 31 January 2022 are in Sri Lankan custody. They have been provided consular and legal assistance by the Indian High Commission in Colombo and Consulate in Jaffna, and efforts are on to secure the release of these fishermen too, the government informed the parliament in the current session.

Along with the fishermen issue, both sides also discussed energy security and tourism.

“Recognized the importance of greater tourism for economic recovery. Also noted the importance of P2P linkages through greater connectivity. Discussed economic and investment initiatives that will strengthen Sri Lanka at this time. Also focused on additional steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security,” tweeted Jaishankar after the meeting.

Jaishankar had held a virtual meeting with Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on January 15. Both sides agreed on the extension of $400 million to Sri Lanka under the SAARC currency swap arrangement and deferral of ACU settlement of $515.2 million by two months, which would assist Sri Lanka. India also extended a credit facility of $1 billion for importing food, essential items, and medicine and $500 mn for importing fuel from India.

Stop Lanka from auctioning Indian boats: PMK

At a time when it is granting about Rs 18,090 crore as financial assistance to Sri Lanka whose Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris is here in the country, India should not remain silent on the island nation auctioning off the boats of Indian fishermen, PMK Founder S.Ramadoss said here on Monday.

Ramadoss said the Lankan government has decided to auction the 105 fishing boats of Indian fishermen starting Monday.

The boats were confiscated by the Lankan authorities on the grounds that the Indian fishermen fished in the island nation’s waters.

Ramadoss said after he had issued a statement opposing Lanka’s decision to auction the Indian boats, Chief Minister M.K.Stalin wrote a letter to the central government.

However, more than two weeks has gone and no pressure seems to have been exerted by the Indian government on Lanka and hence the latter is daringly going ahead with the boat auction, Ramadoss said.

According to him, India should stop Lanka from auctioning the boats and also insist that the island nation cooperate in finding a solution for the fishing issue being faced by the Tamil Nadu fishers.

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