|President meets Indian External Affairs Minister
November 28, 2006- 9.30 GMT
The Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranabh Mukherjee called on the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier today for official discussions on matters of mutual interest. This was the first of a series of meetings between the President and Indian leaders scheduled for today and tomorrow.
It was a friendly and cordial meeting in which the Sri Lankan President and the Indian Minister reaffirmed the friendly ties between the two countries. Mr. Mukherjee
restated India's commitment to preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. There was a frank exchange of views between the Sri Lankan President and the Indian Minister on current developments in Sri Lanka, especially with regard to the peace process, humanitarian issues, and areas of cooperation between the two countries, with special emphasis on the economic development of Sri Lanka; the progress of negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, Indian participation in infra-structure development and the expanding of IT education in Sri Lanka.
The meeting with President Rajapaksa and Indian Minister of External Affairs that lasted nearly 40 minutes was followed by a bi-lateral discussion by Sri Lankan officials led by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and key Indian officials led by External Affairs Minister Pranabh Mukherjee.
According to informed sources, at this bi-lateral discussion, Minister Pranabh Mukerjee said the good relations between India and Sri Lanka that were taken to new heights by the former foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, should be taken to even greater heights of cooperation and understanding. Minister Mukherjee said the work on the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was progressing well and that India was keen to see that both countries benefited from this
Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that Sri Lanka was confident that through the long experience of Minister Mukherjee, it would be possible to take the irreversible good relations between India and Sri Lanka to even higher levels of cooperation. He said that although Sri Lanka was a small neighbour of India, there was big potential for the country to be a partner in development. Commenting on economic development, Minister Samaraweera said that Sri Lanka gives priority to economic development in the peace process because a lasting peace was intertwined with economic progress.
The bi-lateral discussions covered the progress in a number of activities from the latest situation regarding the CEPA, which is expected to be finalized by end January 2007; Indian participation in the construction of the Southern railway on an Indian line of credit of US$ 100 million; the negotiations for the construction of two coal powered power projects in Trincomalee with Indian investment, which is in the final stages of negotiation; the improvement of civil aviation between the two countries; the establishment of an IT park in Sri Lanka; , the overall Development Cooperation between the two countries, special projects such as the expansion of the "Nenasala" programme, the improvements to the Dickoya Hospital, provision of boats to fishermen, and the Mahatma Gandhi scholarships to students in Sri Lanka's hill country.
It is reliably learnt that the bilateral discussions also discussed the question of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), especially in the East of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan officials explained that a proposal by the government to establish a special area to accommodate the IDPs in the East had been turned down by the LTTE, and it wanted to continue to use displaced civilians as human shields and that further steps were being taken by the Sri Lankan government to bring relief to these people who were undergoing hardship, and that arrangements had been made to take a convoy of 50 trucks
with essential goods the Vakarai area.
Ministers Douglas Devananda, Rohitha Bogollagama, Janaka Bandara Tennekoon, Secretary to the Treasury Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, Secretary Foreign Affairs H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat and Dr. Rohan Perera, Advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were among the Sri Lankan officials present. Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary of India, led the team of key Indian officials.