PM Modi announces financial aid of USD 450 million to Sri Lanka
New Delhi, Nov 29: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a financial assistance of USD 450 million to Sri Lanka, including USD 50 million to fight terrorism, after holding "fruitful" talks with the island nation's newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on maritime security, demands of Tamil minorities, concerns of fishermen and ways to boost security and trade ties among others.
Assuring New Delhi's unflinching support to Sri Lanka's journey for prosperity, Modi, in a media statement, said the security and development of the two maritime neighbours were "inseparable" and it was natural that both countries remain mindful of each other's security interests and sensitivities.
The prime minister said he has assured President Rajapaksa of India's commitment to a development partnership with Sri Lanka which will be in accordance with the priorities of the people of the island nation.
On the Tamil issue, Modi said he was confident that the new Sri Lankan government would pursue the process of reconciliation in fulfilling the aspirations of the Tamils for equality, justice, peace and respect.
Signalling his intent to forge deeper ties with India, Rajapaksa arrived here on Thursday on a three-day visit, in his first overseas tour after taking over the reins of Sri Lanka 10 days back.
There has been a growing perception that Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya's elder brother, allowed China to expand its influence over Sri Lanka during his presidency from 2005-2015.
On his part, Gotabaya, terming the talks as "very cordial and reassuring", said security was an area of major focus and Sri Lanka was looking forward to India's continued support in intelligence sharing and to counter terrorism.
Earlier, speaking to reporters after a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Sri Lankan president said he would strive hard to take his country's bilateral relationship with India to a "very high level".
In his media statement, Modi said a line of credit (LOC) of USD 400 million will be given to Sri Lanka for development projects besides announcing a separate fund of USD 50 million to help the country deal with challenges of terrorism. Sri Lankan capital Colombo was hit by a series of bombings in April in which over 250 people were killed.
"A stable, secure and prosperous Sri Lanka is not only in India's interest, but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean Region," Modi said. "India is Sri Lanka's closest maritime neighbour and a trusted friend.
Our historical, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and civilisational contacts are a strong foundation of close relations between the two countries," he said.
On the Tamil issue, Modi said both sides openly exchanged views on reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. "President Rajapaksha told me about his inclusive political outlook on ethnic harmony. I am confident that the government of Sri Lanka will pursue the process of reconciliation to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamils for equality, justice, peace and respect," Modi said.
"It also includes the implementation of the 13th amendment. India will become a trusted partner for development throughout Sri Lanka including North and East," he said.
On terrorism, Modi said India expects action from the international community against all forms of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. "I have discussed in detail with the President Rajapaksa for mutual security and to further strengthen mutual cooperation against terrorism.
"Sri Lankan police officers in major Indian institutions are already receiving counter-terror training. I am happy to announce a special Line of Credit of 50 million dollars to Sri Lanka to combat terrorism," he said.
On the fishermen issue, Modi said both sides agreed to continue talks and deal with the issue with a constructive and humane approach. Fishermen from the two countries are arrested frequently by maritime security agencies on charges of straying into each other's waters.
"The president and I had a very good and fruitful discussion on bilateral ties and international affairs of mutual interest," Modi said. "We have decided that together we will strengthen our multifaceted partnership and cooperation between the two countries," he said.
Modi said the strength and maturity of democracy in Sri Lanka was a matter of great pride and joy and that it is an honour for India that Rajapaksa chose India for his first foreign visit after assuming the charge of the high office.
"It symbolises the strength and dynamism of friendly relations between India and Sri Lanka. It is also a sign of how much importance both countries attach to these relations," he said.
"We look forward to working closely with President Rajapaksa for the progress of both countries and peace, prosperity and security in this entire common region of ours," Modi said.
Modi said the electoral mandate in the presidential election was an expression of aspirations of the Sri Lankan people for an united, strong and prosperous Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary who is credited with ending the country's long civil war, was sworn in as the island nation's new president on November 18, a day after he won the closely fought presidential election in island nation.
Three days later, he appointed his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister.