India convey willingness to open consulate in Jafna

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Colombo, Mar 8 (ANI): Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has conveyed to Sri Lankan Pesident Mahinda Rajpaksa about India's willingness to open the Consulate General Mission at Jafna.

She expressed India's view during her meeting with President ajpaksa on Sunday,

Rao undertook a three-day official visit to Sri Lanka from March 6 to 8.

The Sri Lankan Army recovered Jafna city after a long battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) last year.

Rao also welcomed the Sri Lankan Government's initiation to relax the movement restrictions on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), but also expressed the hope that the resettlement process could be expedited, especially in Killinochchi and Mullaithivu, so that the IDPs could resume normal lives in their original places of habitation.

During her meeting with the President Rajapaksa, Rao congratulated him for his electoral victory.

She also underlined that the elimination of terrorism and holding of elections provided Sri Lanka with a historic opportunity to initiate a process of political reconciliation where all communities in Sri Lanka can live in peace and harmony.

President Rajapaksa appreciated India's substantial assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka and for the resettlement of IDPs and in particular, the extension of 425 million Dollars as Lines of Credit for railway projects in Northern Sri Lanka was welcomed.

During the meeting President Rajpaksa has revealed that around 70,000 IDPs remained in the camps, many of their own volition.

Rao noted that the October 2008 Joint Statement Agreement of Fishing Arrangements had led to a decrease in incidents of apprehension of Indian fishermen and reiterated the importance of strictly adhering to this understanding.

The MEA said that the meeting between Rao and President Rajpaksa it was also agreed to convene a meeting of the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fishing to discuss issues related to fishermen on both sides.

President Rajpaksa also hosted a lunch in Rao's honour.

On Monday, Rao held a series of meetings with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama other senior Foreign Office officials.

During discussions, Bogollagama thanked India for its generous assistance towards the ongoing rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction activities in northern Sri Lanka.

Rao assured the Sri Lankan Government of India's intention to continue supporting the task of development and reconstruction in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

In this context, she announced India's support for housing projects to be taken up in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts for the benefit of the IDPs. This will include setting up temporary shelters, repairing and rehabilitating damaged houses and building new houses.

Government of India has also sanctioned the supply of 55 buses to various educational, social and cultural organizations and locally elected bodies in northern, eastern and central Sri Lanka with a view to supporting the transportation sector and strengthening connectivity in these areas, the MEA said.

Rao also indicated that additional Lines of Credit are being considered for railways projects in Northern Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama also thanked India for its strong support to Sri Lanka during the latter's chairmanship of SAARC.

During her visit Rao also met other senior officials of the Sri Lankan Government, including the Senior Advisor to the President Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera and Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

In addition, she also met representatives of leading political parties, including Tamil and Muslim parties.

Cultural engagement and the preservation of shared heritage have always figured as a high priority in India-Sri Lanka relations.

In this context, Rao announced Indian Government's decision to participate fully in the setting up of the International Buddhist Museum in the Dalada Maligawa Complex.

Work to set up the Indian gallery will be commenced soon under the direction of the National Museum of India. Rao also announced that India would assist the restoration of the famous Thiruketheshwaram Temple in Mannar.

A team from the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture in Mahaballipuram will visit Sri Lanka to take up this work, statement said.

The India-Sri Lanka Foundation is a unique inter-governmental mechanism that has provided crucial support to and helped catalyze a number of initiatives taken by civil society in the area of art, culture, education, human resource development, training, etc.

Rao announced India's decision to enhance its contribution to the corpus of the Foundation by another India Rupees 15 million (approximately SLR 38 million) as a one-time grant.

On Sunday, Rao inaugurated the Sri Lanka-India Centre for English Language Training in Peradeniya, Kandy.

The Centre has been set up with the assistance of the Government of India in collaboration with the well-known English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad and is meant to support the Sri Lankan Presidential Initiative for English as a Life Skill, the MEA said.

The Centre has a state-of-the-art digital language laboratory and has already trained over 4,000 teachers. In her remarks at the inauguration, Rao expressed her happiness at participating in an nitiative that was aimed at the empowerment of the ordinary people of Sri Lanka. (ANI)

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