The Indian Ministry of External Affairs,
and the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday issued a joint
statement at the conclusion of President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s visit to
the Indian capital.
2. The President of Sri Lanka held wide-ranging discussions with President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Shri K. Natwar Singh and Defence Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee. The discussions were detailed and substantive in consonance with the close and friendly ties that exist between the two countries.
3. Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, called on President Kumaratunga.
4. The President also met former Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee.
5. The discussions reaffirmed the traditional convergence of views between the two countries on a range of international issues. Both sides remain deeply committed to opposing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
They agreed that there could be no justification for terrorism, be it political, religious or ideological. There was also a meeting of minds on the need for urgent reform of the UN system to meet global challenges, including the expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council. India expressed its sincere appreciation of Sri Lanka's endorsement of India's candidature for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. They also agreed to cooperate in other Forums including the WTO.
6. Both sides expressed deep satisfaction at the dynamism and energy in bilateral economic ties since the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA) in March 2000. Both sides expressed happiness that bilateral trade has exceeded US $ 1.5 billion in 2003-04. Consideration will be given to establish a Joint Working Group to keep under review any practical problems arising out of the implementation of the FTA. They resolved to inject impetus to the process of further economic integration of the two economies by expediting negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.
7. It was noted that India is the second highest tourism generating country in Sri Lanka and the number of Srilankan Airline flights into various cities in India has reached 77 per week, which is the highest number of flights to India by any airline. The relatively new destinations introduced are Bangalore, Hyderabad and Both Gaya.
8. The President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of India agreed that the US $ 100 million credit line offered by India for the development of Rural Infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka would be used for setting up of vocational training institutes in various parts of the country ranging from the south to the north-east, rural feeder roads, water supply development schemes, community development projects, rural telephony and refurbishing of the road between Anuradhapura and Trincomalee, which is to be named the Rajiv Gandhi Amity Highway. The credit lien is aimed at creating durable infrastructure and providing training and employment opportunities to people in rural areas.
9. The utilisation of the credit line for US $ 150 million for the purchase of petroleum products, signed on October 15, 2004 was also discussed.
10. The two sides agreed to explore the possibilities of intensification of cooperation in the power sector.
11. The two sides decided to expedite the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Fisheries, presently under consideration. While agreeing to continue with the existing understandings on the humane treatment and early release of apprehended fishermen, its was decided to constitute a Joint Working Group which could meet frequently to deal with issues relating to straying fishermen, work out modalities for prevention of use of force against them and the early release of confiscated boats and explore possibilities of working towards bilateral arrangements for licensed fishing.
12. The two sides noted that cultural exchanges is an area, which has great scope in bringing the two peoples together. There have always been an interest in each other's cultures due to the synergies and diversities, which offer many opportunities for fruitful cooperation. Both sides agreed that the Cultural Exchange Program signed in October 2003, needs to be actively implemented.
13. The Sri Lankan side proposed that a lecture titled "Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Oration" should be jointly organised annually by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The first lecture would be delivered by President Kumaratunga. It was also suggested that a unit be set up in the BCIS titled "Centre for India Sri Lanka Studies". The Indian side welcomed the proposals.
14. With regard to activities relating to Buddhism, the Sri Lankan side took up with the Indian side the possibilities of obtaining concessions on the entrance fees to Buddhist pilgrim sites in India and exemption of visa fees for Buddhist pilgrims. Sri Lanka expressed appreciation for the Indian assistance to repair the Mulkirigala Temple at Hambantota and Thiruketheeswaram Temple complex in Mannar.
15. It was noted with satisfaction that the Indian offer of a grant of US $ 7.5 million to build a state-of-the-art Cancer Hospital in Sri Lanka would be expedited by the visit of an Indian technical team in Sri Lanka next week.
16. During discussions on the Defence Cooperation Agreement, it was resolved that a bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreement and the MoU on the Rehabilitation of the Airfield in Palaly would be signed between the two Governments on mutually convenient dates.
The Indian side also agreed to carry out the refit of the Sri Lankan Naval Ship 'Sayura' and underwrite the costs.
17. On the question of the Sethusamudram Canal Project, it was agreed that an exchange of views on the economic and environmental aspects in relation to Sri Lanka would be arranged between the technical experts of India and Sri Lanka.
18. President Kumaratunga, apprised the Indian leadership of the current status of the peace process in Sri Lanka and the steps she has taken to advance it further. India for its part, reiterated its support for the process of seeking a comprehensive, negotiated settlement acceptable to all communities of Sri Lanka, and reflecting the pluralistic nature of Sri Lankan society, within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and consistent with democracy and respect for individual rights.
India maintains an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. India favours the early resumption of negotiations pertaining to the peace process. Any interim, arrangement on administration should be an integral part of an enduring final settlement that maintains the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and ensures the safety, well-being and prosperity of the people.
19. The discussions during the visit served to underline the excellent state of bilateral ties and the growing partnership for economic co-operation between the two countries.
Both sides resolved to further strengthen their high level interaction through sustained dialogue in order to expand their co-operation in areas of mutual benefit to their peoples.
20. The President also addressed The Hindustan Times leadership initiative and made a keynote speech on the topic "Unity and Diversity - Keeping South Asia together".
21. President of Sri Lanka will visit Bodh Gaya.
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