India, Sri Lanka recharge ties with four pacts, including N-cooperation

17 February 2015

India and Sri Lanka on Monday reenergised their traditional friendship with the two countries committing themselves to unlocking the vast potential for economic cooperation between the two nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi, on Monday.  

After a meeting between visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two nations cemented their friendship with the signing of four agreements, including one on 'peaceful use of nuclear energy.'

The signing of an agreement on the 'peaceful uses of nuclear energy' is also seen as an attempt to energise economic engagement between the two nations.

The agreement will facilitate cooperation in the transfer and exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including use of radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety, nuclear security, radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.

Sources indicate that the agreement will not only help train personnel but also help in using irradiation for preservation of food, among other things, which could benefit the people of the island nation.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Modi expressed support for a more balanced growth in trade between the two countries.

''We are pleased to be Sri Lanka`s largest trading partner. I know that India enjoys a huge trade surplus. I expressed my support for a more balanced growth in trade in both directions.''

''I conveyed our readiness to promote greater flow of Indian investments and tourists into Sri Lanka,'' he added.

The two countries discussed expansion of cooperation in energy sector, both conventional and renewable. Commerce secretaries of the two countries will meet soon to review bilateral commercial relations.

He said the two countries planned to further improve air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka.

Besides enhancing connectivity and looking at the possibility of opening more airports apart from the one in Colombo, the two sides discussed the issue of restarting a ferry service between Talaimannar and Tuticorin.

IRCON, the engineering arm of Indian Railways, will take up infrastructure development in Sri Lanka.

''The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust. This is the first such agreement Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation, including in areas like agriculture and healthcare,'' he said.

The two countries also agreed to expand defence and security cooperation. ''We welcomed the progress in our maritime security cooperation, including in the trilateral format with Maldives,'' Modi said.

Under a project for resettling internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka, India will assist Sri Lanka in housing people displaced by the civil war in that country. This includes a housing project, under which more than 27,000 houses have already been constructed.

''I assured President Sirisena of India`s commitment to its development partnership with Sri Lanka. This will continue to cover a broad range of areas, including infrastructure," Modi said, adding that the two sides have agreed to cooperate in the agriculture sector.

On the issue of the perennial dispute between the two countries over fishing rights, the two sides have agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue as it affects livelihood on both sides.

''We will encourage the fishermen`s associations on both sides to meet again soon. They should find a solution that can be taken forward by both governments.''

Prime Minister Modi also accepted an invitation to visit Sri Lanka, which is expected to take place in the second week of March.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is also likely to pay a visit to Sri Lanka in the first week of March.

Sirisena's visit here is his first international trip since assuming the President's office about a month ago.

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