Recent developments in Sri Lanka have created new openings and opportunities on many longstanding issues, India's external Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Wednesday.
Delivering a statement in Lok Sabha on Prime Minister's tri-nation visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, Minister Swaraj said the Sri Lanka visit by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi provided an opportunity to strengthen ties with a very close neighbor and a fellow SAARC member.
"From our side, the intent was to assure all sections of Sri Lanka that India wishes them well in their quest for peace and prosperity; this was fulfilled in Prime Minister's visit," she said.
Indian Prime Minister's to Sri Lanka on 13-14 March 2015, was the fourth high level engagement with Sri Lanka since the election of President Maithripala Sirisena on 9th January 2015.
President Sirisena paid his first visit abroad to India later in February while Sri Lankan Foreign Minister visited New Delhi ahead of President's visit and Minister Swaraj visited Colombo ahead of PM Modi's visit.
During his visit, PM Modi held talks with President Sirisena and senior members of the Government. Prime Minister also met the leadership across the political spectrum including former Presidents Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa. He addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Modi's visit expressed India's strong support for democracy and reform in Sri Lanka, Swaraj said. Prime Minister in his address to the Parliament expressed confidence in the future of Sri Lanka, defined by unity and integrity, peace and harmony, and opportunity and dignity for everyone. He underlined, that for India, the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka are paramount.
The problems of fishermen were discussed during the talks, Swaraj told Lok Sabha. Prime Minister Modi has pointed out that it was a complex issue involving livelihood and humanitarian concerns on both sides, and India and Sri Lanka need to find a long term solution.
Among the main outcomes of the Prime Minister's talks in Sri Lanka were: a) inclusion of Sri Lanka in the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Scheme from 14th April, coinciding with the occasion of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year; b) setting up of a Joint Task Force to develop the Trincomalee Upper Oil Tank Farm; c) announcement of a fresh line of credit for US$ 318 million for Sri Lanka's railway sector; d) extension of currency swap facility of US$ 1.5 billion by Reserve Bank of India to Sri Lanka's Central Bank; e) creating a Joint Task Force for cooperation in the Ocean Economy; f) direct flights between Delhi and Colombo by Air India to begin this summer; g) holding of a Festival of India in Sri Lanka; and h) cooperation in development of a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist circuit in India.
Four agreements/ MOUs were also signed during the visit: on customs cooperation; visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders; youth development; and construction of an auditorium in Ruhuna University in Matara, Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister's visit to the three important countries in the Indian Ocean has promoted greater understanding and cooperation in this region, Swaraj said.