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Address Tamils’ aspirations within united Sri Lanka, and implement 13th Amendment

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Modi to Mahinda:

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, September 27:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exhorted Sri Lanka to address the Tamils’ aspirations for equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka. He urged the island-nation to carry forward the process of reconciliation with the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to its Constitution.

Modi conveyed this to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during an hour-long virtual summit on Saturday morning. This was the first such summit in the neighbourhood for both the prime ministers.

Responding to Modi’s call, PM Rajapaksa expressed the confidence that Sri Lanka will work towards realizing the expectations of all ethnic groups, including Tamils, by achieving reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka and implementation of the Constitutional provisions.

They discussed bilateral relations, regional and international issues of mutual concern, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.Both the leaders recalled the successful State Visits by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in November 2019 and February 2020, respectively. These visits gave clear political direction and vision for the future of the relationship.The two countries agreed to work together to expeditiously complete construction of 10,000 housing units in the plantation areas with Indian assistance, first announced by Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2017.

They will deepen cooperation in renewable energy with particular emphasis on solar projects under the US$100-million Line of Credit from India.

Rajapaksa welcomed Modi’s announcement of India’s grant assistance of US$15 million for promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries. The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism including inter alia through construction/renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha’s relics, strengthening engagement of Buddhist scholars and clergy, etc.The two governments will further strengthen people-to-people ties by exploring opportunities in the field of civilizational linkages and common heritage such as Buddhism, Ayurveda and Yoga.

India will facilitate the visit of a delegation of Sri Lankan Buddhist pilgrims in the inaugural international flight to the sacred city of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, which was recently made an international airport. It was here that Gautama Buddha attained parinirvana after his death.

Both leaders were unanimous that the ancient cultural links between India and Sri Lanka are special, and must be nurtured further. Rajapaksa made a special mention of the Jaffna Cultural Centre which is an iconic project built with Indian assistance. The Centre is almost ready. He extended an invitation to Modi to inaugurate the project. Both sides will remain in touch at official level for details.

At a special briefing on the summit, Joint Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) Amit Narang said Sri Lanka’s request for a bilateral currency swap arrangement worth $1 billion is under discussion. This is in addition to the $400-million currency swap India has already provided.

The two leaders exchanged views on fishermen-related issues. They agreed to continue and strengthen the ongoing constructive and humanitarian approach to address this issue through existing bilateral mechanisms, and instructed relevant officials on both sides to this effect.

As soon as Sri Lanka decides to allow foreign airlines to fly in and out, an air bubble will be established to allow the resumption of flights between the two countries.

Rajapaksa commended the strong leadership Modi showed in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, based on the vision of mutual support and assistance to the countries of the region. Both leaders agreed that the current situation presented a fresh opportunity to give added impetus to bilateral relations.

Both the leaders expressed happiness that India and Sri Lanka worked very closely in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Modi reaffirmed India’s continued commitment for all possible support to Sri Lanka for minimising the health and economic impact of the pandemic.For imparting further impetus to the bilateral relationship, the two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, including in the fields of intelligence, information sharing, de-radicalization and capacity building.They decided to continue the fruitful and efficient development partnership in accordance with the priority areas identified by the Government and people of Sri Lanka and to further broad-base the island-wide engagement under the Memorandum of Understanding for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) for the period 2020-2025.The two governments will work towards early realization of infrastructure and connectivity projects, including in the sectors of Ports and Energy through close consultations as per the Bilateral Agreements and MoUs, and strong commitment towards a mutually beneficial development cooperation partnership between the two countries.They will strengthen technical cooperation in the areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science & technology, health care and AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) as well as skill development by increased training of professionals thereby realizing the full potential of the demographic dividend in both the countries.Cooperation will be strengthened between armed forces of the two sides, including through mutual exchange of personnel visits, maritime security cooperation and support to Sri Lanka in the spheres of defence and security.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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