Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday decided to expand bilateral “defence and security cooperation.” Modi is likely to visit Sri Lanka and Maldives next month, sources said, adding that the itinerary is being finalised. Sirisena said the visit would “strengthen their friendship”, and would be a “glorious event” and an “honour and blessing” to Sri Lanka.
New Delhi also signed a pact with Colombo to assuage their concerns on Indian nuclear facilities coming up on the southern coast, which may have an impact on Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka raised this matter after the Fukushima disaster, and the two sides have had several rounds of discussions.
After the bilateral talks at Hyderabad House, Modi, reading from a prepared text, said, “The President and I also agreed to expand our defence and security cooperation. We welcomed the progress in our maritime security cooperation, including in the trilateral format with Maldives.”
“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,” Modi said at a joint media appearance with Sirisena.
The nuclear pact would 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 and nuclear security.
It would also facilitate cooperation in radioactive waste management, and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.
Modi said the two leaders attached the “highest importance” to the issue of fishermen. “It affects livelihoods on both sides. We agreed that there must be a constructive and humanitarian approach to the issue.” The two countries also signed three other pacts, including cooperation in the field of agriculture. Another MoU was signed to enable Sri Lanka to participate in the Nalanda University Project.
Modi said he believed that destinies of the two countries were “inter-linked”, and that “our security and prosperity are indivisible”.
“We are at a moment of an unprecedented opportunity to take our bilateral relations to a new level. His visit today has set us firmly in that direction,” the Modi said while congratulating Sirisena on his historic victory in the election.
On the question of economic engagement, Modi said the two countries were committed to “unlock” the vast potential of economic cooperation. “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,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he had conveyed to Sirisena India’s readiness to promote greater flow of Indian investments and tourists into Sri Lanka. “We also intend to further improve air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka,” he said.
Modi said they discussed expansion of cooperation in the energy sector, both conventional and renewable, and that the commerce secretaries of the two countries would meet soon to review trade ties.
Indian assisted projects for internally-displaced persons in Sri Lanka have made excellent progress, Modi said. “This includes the Housing Project, under which more than 27,000 houses have already been constructed. The President and I expressed satisfaction with the progress.
“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,” he said.